Help Yourself

Still Life With Travel Part of every day for me consists of emails and other messages asking me for help. “Chris, can you help me get more Twitter followers?” (By the way, here’s how to get more Twitter followers). “Can you help me make money?” (Here’s how to make some money). “Can you retweet this?” (Here’s how to spread your wings for more retweets.)

I’ve built my business model around being helpful.

I get my leads from helping people. When I write posts about a certain industry, I’m often approached by this industry to speak professionally, or even provide marketing consulting. It’s how I’ve made a living for the last few years.

But, if you want to know a secret, the best way to find help in this universe, or the best way to make use of the resources the universe has to offer, relies on a shift in your perspective.

Help Yourself

Help yourself. And when I say this, I’m not saying, “Don’t ask me for anything.” Here’s what I mean – your success will hinge on the following shift in how you see things and how you implement things:

Think of good questions that will build your own capabilities. Think of how you can get yourself ready to receive and contribute to the help you’re asking for, so that you’ll be ready to utilize the help. Think of ways you can turn that one ask into information that you can scale and expand and use multiple times.

The difference being, you can get much more out of your requests for help if they equip you to drive your own ideas and efforts forward, versus just seeking a temporary borrowing of resources, or a brief execution.

In other terms, give a man a fish, and he’ll have smelly hands. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll have reasons to lie (or something like that. Who knows how that one is said?)

Help Yourself

I’m always noodling on some project or idea or another. Some of my recent ideas involve how to better use corporate structure to enact business deals. I had this great conversation with Joe Sorge, and that gave me ideas for a few questions that I can ask a few other business people in the coming months, so that I can gather their responses into a little virtual advisory board before I take action.

How I help myself in this case is that I figure out the right question to shape my own hypothesis.

I help myself build platform for my social media efforts by commenting and participating in other people’s projects. By taking part in responding to them, by helping them spread the word about their efforts, I’m never at a loss to get support and participation in my projects.

I help myself by taking copious notes on what I learn in Third Tribe Marketing, so that I won’t have to ask people questions later (I learn via passive sources). I help myself by reading books, inside and outside my vertical, so that I can get lots of ideas.

And You?

How are you helping yourself? How are you helping others? Is there a way you can turn the information you provide into the kind of information others would need to help themselves? How would you go about doing that? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Jason mKey

    Great post Chris,

    I see that some people ask for help, but don't know what to do with it. You can give the best help in the world, but if the recipient isn't able or willing to act on it, then the help is wasted.

  • winwin apps

    This really is the fundamental lesson of relationship building. Helping always starts with listening. At my first trade show I was launching a free product that I thought would be useful to many, many folks. I prepped my ptich and got ready to “help.” About 3 hours in stumbled upon that basic lesson…I needed to ask people who came to my booth what they NEEDED. Listening to them describe the current barriers in their organizations I was able to describe much more specifically how the app could help them.

    Continuing to listen to clients, twitter chat, friends is the only way to improve. And that helps us all.

  • Hashim

    I help myself by teaching and broadcasting the little helpful info that I know. Smart and generous people appear and fill in what I'm missing. It's weird and it works.

  • AJ Bombers

    I'd even go as far as to say that if you choose not to help yourself, you'll never actually learn from your own mistakes.

    Thanks for the thinking point today Chris.

  • eck0

    I have enjoyed reading your content for some time now. You have helped equip me to help, equip. and add value to others who are not as technical or web savvy as well as helping me in some of my ventures. and I thank you for the value you add to the world. major kudos
    btw the end of teh quote is “you feed him for a lifetime.”

  • Justin Lukasavige

    Many people don't realize how valuable being helpful is. I've seen you do it every single day Chris. Without having a clue that it's a great way to do business, being helpful is something I've always naturally done.

    I too have gotten a lot out of Third Tribe and place like the Free Agent Academy where I'm actually a leader. Just because I teach classes doesn't mean I'm not supposed to get anything out of a group. In fact, I think at times I get more out of it than many of our member. (affilate link)

    Every day I'm trying to figure out how to give something away. Every so often I get a hesitant question from someone asking me to divulge something that I do. They usually apologize and say that it's OK if I don't want to share.

    But I try to go above and beyond when answering and give away more than they even ask. We live in a world of abundance, not scarcity.

  • Chris Brogan

    That's true, too. Boy, some days, I know that what I've done to help has gone nowhere.

  • Hans Schiefelbein

    Chris, it's hard for me to not be cynical when I hear you write this. With all your followers and your successful businesses it seems easier to help so many people and to monitor how your help translates into business. Still, I've learned that to add value to other people will eventually come back around. I understand the need to build business on relationships. It just becomes a discipline and a time issue.

    I am trying to add value by establishing my platform on my blog in the areas of health and fitness and personal productivity (including social networking). You are a model that I am grateful to have discovered. Keep challenging us and asking great questions.

  • Chris Roffe


    Identifying who your stakeholders are while forming your hypothesis or project will help you focus on a target and work towards it with more momentum, purpose, and less wasted energy (way easier then trying to hit a moving target!).

    ps. The new site design looks great!

  • thomsinger

    I am always shocked when people who look at someone who is successful who thinks they are lucky or some how did not earn the spot on top. Or those who say they are skeptical of you because you have “so many followers” or a larger platform. My understanding is you were not born with so many Twitter followers or a popular blog! It is dedication to a cause (like helping others along the way) and passionate tenacity that gets most people to the top.

    I spoke to someone this week who wants more success in their chosen career, but refuses to work on nights or weekends. He wants a 40 hour (maybe 30 hour) work week, but wants to shut it off the rest of the time….but wants the levels of success of those at the top whom he identified. I am sure the people he mentioned work more hours!. What you do not mention often, but I know is true, is that you work a lot of hours each week. You think about your businesses and projects all the time,. You have written about this before, but I think it is time to do it again. To help yourself you have to put in the time!!!

  • gerardmclean

    I studied English lit in college. I got a degree in English. I was going to have a brilliant career as a High School English teacher and later, an old, retired writer. But life had other plans and that just wasn't in the cards. Someday, I hope it will be.

    But I learned how to write software by tearing other software apart. I learned how to be a graphic designer by studying design and typography, reading, watching and emulating the best (Black, McWade, Zeldman) When I run into a technical problem with PHP, Perl, WordPress, whatever, I Google the crap out of it and read mountains of books. O'Reily is my best friend. The sheer terror of failure is perhaps my single biggest motivator. Quoting Dylan, “he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled.” Technology is merciless with those who don't keep learning. So is marketing. So is business. So is life.

    And when people ask me how I know all this stuff, I say, “I can read, I can Google” and still many people still don't get that most education and skill is obtained through constant curiosity and a drive to know how to do things. Most people want to be spoon-fed the answers or trained by their employer. “You didn't show me how to do that” “You didn't set up my preferences” “You didn't send me the email” and on and on and on. That crap drives me crazy. I may not be the smartest idiot in the room, but I sure know enough to not just stand there waiting for someone to tell me how to do something, accept failure and then blame it on anyone who didn't get the damn answer for me.

    Chris, you have more patience with the lazy than I ever will. I don't know where you find the internal fortitude.

  • frank barry

    It's a mindset. That's how I think about it. Being helpful is tough to do, but the more you can do it at work, on your blog, with your friends, etc … the more it comes back to you. Then others want to help you. When you ask that network of people will be more likely to respond.

    So I say help your self by being a helpful person. Then, as you point out Chris, be ready to receive that help and learn from it so it's not temporary or limited in it's return.

    Thanks for always being helpful. Time for me to get back to commenting on your blog … I've been slackin' on giving back.

  • Ron De Giusti

    As always Chris, your posts really, really come across geniune.
    That is why I like reading them.
    I honestly, geniunely believe you were trying to help your followers there.

  • Ray Martin

    Chris, You have so much do-it-yourself information available on this blog! It's like taking a course on social media. I've always learned best by imitating the things I see in successful people. That doesn't mean copying or trying to be just like someone else, but it does mean to take a look at what someone is doing and finding a way to incorporate it into what you do. Isn't that what education is all about? You study the text book basics, then you take what you learned and make it your own (and some times you learn when to break the rules)! There will always be those out there that don't want to take the time to study and will just ask, “What should I do?” As long as they're willing to pay for the consultation that's okay! Otherwise, I suggest they start reading. is the perfect place to start. I keep going back to this post to see if I'm doing it right.

  • Chris Brogan

    I'm happy that it helps, Ray. My job is to give you a great reason to open a lemonade stand. : )

  • Chris Brogan

    I only feel like I've succeeded if you feel helped.

  • Chris Brogan

    I was just reading about engineers. It seems the most recent bunches of graduating engineers are smart but don't take initiative. Turns out here's why: they never did things with their hands, like tear apart radios, make go-carts out of shopping carts, etc.

    Think about that: none of us use our hands enough (unless you do), and our kids? My boy thinks everything in the world has a screen attached.

  • Chris Brogan

    I love it, Thom. I know that guy. I meet him (and her) every week. Just can't wait to start living the Four Hour Work Week, they tell me. Then they say how awesome it must be to jet all over, just attending conferences and parties, and reviewing free stuff all the time. Yeahhhhh.

    I say, 'your turn's coming any day now!' : )

  • Chris Brogan

    Not sure I follow your point on cynicism. My point is that you rarely capture all the value you create. So, in my case, I'm just helpful as often as possible, knowing that I'm going to translate some % of that into real business.

    Thrilled you commented. Just making sure I get it.

  • gerardmclean

    That is very interesting. In a rush to protect them from the dangers of the world (bubble-wrapping playgrounds) we've created the next generation of kids who can't make anything. I've had a blog post knocking around my head forever about why it's important to make things with your hands. You've knocked it out of my head and onto the screen… (pretty sure there is some irony there…) Thanks!

  • Robet Somerville

    I read somewhere that all the answers already exist…it is the ability to be able to ask the right question that counts.

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  • Lisa

    Hey Chris the links for guided video tour of Thesis and Thesis demo site are not working, would like to check it out

  • m3 zero

    I can't help myself in some situations but I can help others by the solutions that I have applied on me and were succeed.But its said that answers exist in the questions but we can't find it till its proper time.

  • susangiurleo

    My brother is an engineer and manages a team of young, smart recent engineering grads. He finds them incredibly hard to manage. They don't take initiative and need to be told what to do every step of the way. Kids don't tinker as much as they used to. They don't have to. A whole life time can now be spent in passive consuming of other people's work. We strongly limit screen time in our house. My son (6 yo) says “I don't know what to doooooo.” and I say, “you're smart and creative, you'll figure it out”. After about 10 minutes he does. But it can be such a slippery slope to just tell them what to do or park them in front of a computer (which is better than TV or video games , but still not creative.)

  • susangiurleo

    This is a great point in life, not just business. There is no “easy button,” in work, health, relationships. I spoke to a 23 year old the other day who told me “Life is hard.” But I think what he meant was, “Life is work.”

    I help myself by reading, learning and asking questions that can give me information I can apply. Third Tribe is a treasure trove. I learn tons there and I hope I help some people along the way.

  • barneyausten

    Hi Chris. As always, I enjoyed this post. To answer your specific questions;

    I help myself by understanding what information/help I need before going to look for it. Why? 'Cause without putting in the effort beforehand, i won't know what answer I am looking for.

    I hope that I help others by imparting great information when I find it i.e. point others in the right direction (but only after I've validated it for myself).

    In terms of how to help people use the information to help themselves – probably by showing how I used that information to progress my own business, personal life… whichever and encouraging them to think themselves how they would apply the learnings into their own lives. After that, it's up to them.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  • Katie Elzer-Peters

    This is my religion.

    Talk to your buddy “Threesomeex!” LOL! She'll tell you: I'm willing to talk and share my experiences with EVERYONE IN THE WORLD, as long as they'll go and DO something with it. I don't have time to hold hands. I have time to share, discuss, interact and teach.

  • Cassie Rice

    I totally agree with you Chris. That's the whole point in business too – to create product/services that help a specific group of people.

    To answer your question: right now, I'm working on creating social media tools that will help others save time and stay organized while managing their social media. It's also, fortunately a tool that will help me as well while I manage my own social media.

  • Gilles Theriault

    Great post Chris and really like it. You ask “How are you helping yourself?” I read a lot and try a lot of stuff, that are related to computers. I wish that I would have the same confidence to do that with a business! Then you mention about “How are you helping others?” and some of the comments are great. It is nice to read that some industries, you help others and it comes back to you.

    What have I learn by helping others!! Never do it again! Why? Because, they will replace you in a heart beat and as soon as they can. In my nature state, I use to always go out of my way to help others. Until I had the very bad experience and still am! So much that everyday, I'm looking to find something that I could do to change my career. So, helping others now, I constantly remind myself what is happening to me and I just refuse or the best line of defense is to say I don't know. But, as I mention, it is in my nature. So, I still help others but only online! So, I go in my niche and answer those people questions.


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    You can give the best help in the world, but if the recipient isn't able or willing to act on it, then the help is wasted.

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  • Frankie Cooper

    These are some good points for me to go and help myself.