Moving from a 6 to an 8?

June 23, 2021

Recently, a returning member, we’ll call him Dwayne, rated his skill on asking for help.

On a scale of 0 to 10, I’d say I’m a “6”. I do ask for help, but I could do more of it.


6 is actually the CG Councils average and, as such, is much better than the rest of the world.

But I want *all* of you to move from a 6 to an 8 because that can translate into amazing things. 

I know.

After college graduation, and after moving to New York, I suffered a mental and physical breakdown.

My doctors said I had a cross-over reaction to antibodies that my immune system created – and that shut down my immune system. Following that my nervous system shut down and I was left unable to easily control my arms and legs (and with intermittent speech problems to boot). 

So, there I was living in New York with no income, no savings, no healthcare, and no way to make a living. 

I did have a few things going for myself including: I wanted to learn C and C++ (programming languages) from Queensborough Community College, which offered remote classes (via speakerphone — this was pre-web) for people on disability.

But I had a problem. 

I had no computer. No modem. No desk. Not even a chair. And no money at all.

So, what did I do? 

I asked for help. 

But I must admit up to this point in my life, I was barely a 6. 

In this case, however, I asked a friend to help me send a letter to 90 technology companies asking if they would consider donating a computer to me.

Crazy idea, right?

My friend got the addresses, printed ninety letters, which I signed, and he then mailed (and paid for the postage).

For the next several months, I got sporadic noes (yes, that’s the plural of “no” — who knew?). 

Microsoft, no. 

Oracle, no. 

IBM, no.

Dell, no.

A total of *89* noes.

But then one day, the 90th company said “Yes!” 

They (note: they asked me to keep their name in confidence) sent one of their executives to my dingy studio apartment in Manhattan and set me up with desk, chair, computer, printer, modem, and software (and speech recognition software so I could type with my wobbly voice).


After that experience, I have asked for help every single day. 

That’s the jet fuel that has gotten me many things: my job on Wall Street (after I recovered), an advisory role to a voice recognition company, admission to business school, a job at an Internet startup that Amazon later bought, a role at McKinsey, founder of two of my own companies… to name but a few of the ways asking for help regularly has changed my life.

Every day you too face myriad challenges at home and at work. 

Yet, like the earlier me, you do not ask for help nearly enough.

But I have a great solution for you: ask more (including asking for help in asking for help). 

The life you save – or change – could be your own.


P.S. Later today we will have a wonderful conversation with Jonathan Ehrlich. Join us live – it will NOT be recorded! Click below on the link to get the calendar invite.

Upcoming Talks

  • Clubhouse and the Audio Revolution – Wed, June 23 @3pm ET
    Jonathan Ehrlich, Partner, Foundation Capital
    Talk Type: In the Moment (Note: this will NOT be recorded)
    Audience/Roles: All Roles
     Two things to know about Jonathan Ehrlich:
    1) he co-led the seed round in Clubhouse and was thus the first venture capitalist to spot its potential;
    2) he’s a Councils alum with an interesting career arc.Join us for an informal conversation with Jonathan about Clubhouse, the future of audio, and Jonathan’s career journey from a mostly offline retailer in Canada to relocating to Silicon Valley and reinventing himself.—
    —Jonathan Ehrlich is a Partner at Foundation Capital who invests in early early-stage consumer, marketplace, commerce, and SaaS startups and technologies. He joined Foundation Capital in 2013 as a partner after spending nine months with the firm as an entrepreneur-in-residence. Before joining Foundation Capital, Jonathan spent 17 years as an operator during which he founded three companies, built a $100M+ revenue business, and ran marketing for Facebook. He is the first institutional investor in Clubhouse and currently sits on the board of Bulletin and Chord. His Foundation and personal investments include Shelf Engine, Mainstreet, Truepill, Hooked, WayUp, League, Front, and Flexport. When not working, he can be found on his bike or chasing his four kids around.

Recent Talks and Activity Recordings

  • No Ego
    Cy Wakeman, Best-selling Author and CEO
    Talk Type: Leadership Development, Culture
    Audience/Roles: All Roles
     We had a follow-up session with Cy last Friday that was amazing. We did NOT record it due to confidentiality. We will be planning more.

    In the meantime, you can watch the spring keynote with Cy, which was a GREAT session. Members loved it. I collected live case studies from members, which I anonymously shared with Cy to get her reaction on what was to be done. You gotta watch to see her great answers.

    Cy Wakeman is a drama researcher, global thought-leader, and New York Times best-selling author who is recognized for cultivating a counter-intuitive, reality-based approach to leadership. Backed by over 20 years of unparalleled experience, Wakeman’s philosophy offers a new lens through which employees and executives alike, can shift their attention inward, sharpen their focus on personal accountability, and uncover their natural state of innovation simply by ditching the drama.

    Deemed “the secret weapon to restoring sanity to the workplace,” Wakeman has helped companies such as Google, Facebook, Viacom, Uber, NBC Universal, NASA, Pfizer, Johns Hopkins, Stanford Health Care, Keurig Dr. Pepper, AMC Theatres, White Castle, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and countless others learn to navigate our rapidly changing world using good mental processes to harness energy wasted in workplace drama and reinvest that effort into achieving profound business results.
  • JTBD in Large Distributed Environments
    Jay Haynes, Founder & CEO,
    Talk Type: Product; Skill Builder/Practitioner
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    Jobs To Be Done has proven to be an effective methodology for building much better holistic end-to-end products and customer experiences.

    *But* CG Council member companies with large distributed environments are finding it difficult to apply JTBD in effective ways.

    Jay Haynes, CEO of thrv, and a global expert on JTBD will come and speak to the Councils community on this specific challenge of using the methodology in large, complex technology environments.
  • Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products
    Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin, co-Authors of Groundwork
    Talk Type: Product
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    Product leaders are all too familiar with the one to two-year period it typically takes to train and coach PMs. Product leaders hire smart people and then work with them individually, guiding them through how to think about product management, and watching them develop. Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin wanted a much faster way to help cultivate efficient and effective product managers that consistently create products that delight customers, regardless of the industry, the environment, and the development methodology that the team employed. They took years of experience as product executives and working with hundreds of teams as product coaches to create a framework to Get Better at Making Better Products.

    The design philosophy and methodology behind Groundwork was created to help product leaders be confident that their teams were committed to solving the right customer problems, minimizing costly rework by using individualized needs, and leveraging actionable personas in big and small product decisions. Vidya and Heather want Groundwork to help product teams have a much higher chance of success in the market—and help every product manager shine.

    Join Vidya and Heather as they share the background, principles, and methodology behind the Groundwork to help you, and your team, get better at making better products. 
  • Making the Case for Empowering Your People
    Marty Cagan, Partner, Silicon Valley Product Group
    Talk Type: Product, Leadership Development, Culture
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    From Marty: “I have long been interested in the difference between how the best companies work, and the rest. Working with both types of organizations for so many years, there are many differences ranging from culture to process to staffing to roles to techniques. But at its core, strong product companies empower their people, and most of the rest do not. My focus over the past few years has been tackling this issue head-on, which means the product leadership. In this talk, we’ll discuss why this model consistently yields better results, and what’s necessary to transform to work like the best.”

    Marty’s Bio: Marty Cagan is the founding partner of the Silicon Valley Product Group, which he created to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising and coaching. Before starting SVPG, Marty served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay.As part of his work with SVPG, Marty advises tech companies of all sizes and stages, stretching far beyond Silicon Valley. Marty is the author of the industry-leading book for product teams, INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and the upcoming book EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products. Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe.
  • See talks from the last month and beyond here.​

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

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