Valentine’s Day RFH?

February 18, 2021

Council members often ask me why I’m so passionate about asking for help. There are many reasons, including what my mom – Chic (pronounced “Chick”) – taught me (see last week’s newsletter).

But I also learned from firsthand experience. Let me tell you a story.

37 years ago, Valentine’s Day 1984, during my senior year of high school in LA, I was kicked out of my house. That was just the then-latest episode of emotional abuse and neglect that I suffered during those years.

To make matters worse, I was told that if I wanted to move back that I had to apologize to the very step parent that had tormented me.


And to give you some context – three years prior, in my first year of high school, I had decided that no matter what was going on at home that I would do everything I could to get good grades and go to college. 

By February of 1984 when this incident happened, I was number 1 academically in my high school graduating class and had been given a scholarship to college.

When I was kicked out, I was angry and deeply hurt, and at age 17.5, was dealing with raging testosterone and the impact of years of abuse (for those readers who are familiar with Shakespeare’s Othello, I had an Iago in my home). 

To say I was mad would be an understatement.

So, I faced a dilemma: swallow my anger, apologize and move back home and finish my senior year, or, refuse to apologize, and potentially put at risk all of the hard work I had done to get to that point.

So, what should I do, I wondered? 

You won’t be surprised to hear that I asked for help. I asked friends, teachers, my mom in San Diego – i.e., people outside my home, a panel of folks, to help me think this through.

Their answer was clear: keep your eyes on the prize and apologize. You’ll be out of there in three short months anyway. 

Not only did I get that good advice, but the tubas and drums started up. A village of supporters – the very people I asked for help from – started marching behind me: my journalism teacher, my English teacher, my history teacher, my girlfriend, and her family, my close friends who knew what I was going through, my mother and sister in San Diego. They all made it clear that they would walk those final months with me.

I was lucky. Lucky that my mom had taught me the art of asking for help before we were separated. Lucky because I listened and then asked for help. And lucky because that parade of support automagically formed behind me. Without any of this, I don’t think I could have marshaled the strength to make that good decision. 

I’m proud that I asked and I’m proud that I followed that good advice. It would have been so easy to derail myself in those final months of my senior year of high school.

So, yes, I’m deeply passionate about asking for help.

I’m certain I would not be here had I walked alone.

That’s why I mean it when I say: never walk (or lead) alone.

With love,


P.S. Again, if *you* need help or want to simply think out loud, get in touch. 

Recent Talks and Activity Recordings

  • JTBD in Large Distributed Environments
    Jay Haynes, Founder & CEO,

    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.

    Talk Type: Product; Skill Builder/Practitioner
  • 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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