Recently the local gas company upgraded their supply lines. Surveyors with GPS units walked the streets, pinpointing the exact locations of the main lines and the branches that would supply natural gas to the houses on the street. Excavators with computer assisted digging claws “knew” where and how deep to dig the necessary trenches. Special machines rolled the pipe sections into place and connected the pieces. But it took a human to crawl into the ditch and verify the connections were secure and check for potential gas leaks.
More of life is getting to be like digging that ditch. There is a lot of help to get a job done, and many offers to help, but an individual is still responsible to see that the job is complete and correct. Ultimately, we still have to do the work. Any kind of assistance - technological, work teams, study groups, even family units - can take us only so far. We cannot expect others to do for us. We cannot even expect others to support us, but we can expect that others can support us. If we know how to ask for help and what to do with the help. The GPS-assisted surveying equipment no use to someone who cannot operate the equipment or read its reports. Likewise, we must be able to read those who offer help to determine what results to expect.
All the help available is no help if you do not know how to use it and that goes for the people offering help also. It comes down to understanding your tools, your support systems, and your own comfort levels.
First the tools. This is an easy evaluation. What tools - physical, mental, and emotional - do you need to complete a task? Do you have the tools to complete the task? Do you know how to use and interpret the results of the tools you will use to complete the task? If you don’t have or understand the tools, can you complete the task without them and are you willing to complete the task without them. It might be easy to secure a tool you don’t have, like renting a GPS surveying wand. It may be more difficult and not practical to attend classes to master the nuances of civil engineering just to secure the knowledge to use the unfamiliar tool.
Your support systems. This may seem an easy evaluation. Who among those who surround you are willing to help when you ask? The difficult part of the evaluation is actually two-fold. First there is the question of competence. Are those willing to help able to help and do they have the necessary knowledge or expertise to provide the assistance you need? The more difficult question is one of intent and execution. Will the reality of their assistance be up to their intent? Sometimes people are quick to offer help but when taken up on it, either cannot or will not come through. Thinking they want to help and having them help are two different things. Sometimes not even the intent is there, rather it is just a show of an offer to help assuming you will either not take them up on it or that they will be able to delay “helping” until you no longer need assistance. This doesn’t make them bad people. It does expose their limitations and offers you an opportunity to adjust your expectations of where, or in what role within your support system, them land.
Your comfort level. No matter what system we use to complete what tasks we are presented, ultimately it comes down to an individual still being responsible that the job is complete and correct. And that individual is you. You can make use of all the technology available or all the people at your disposal, or you can go it alone.
Whether the job is installing new gas lines through a neighborhood, developing a sales pitch for a new natural fruit juice, brainstorming next week’s chemistry lab test, or re-painting the kitchen, we all have a hierarchy of task tolerance – the amount of work we can and are willing to do alone, the work we could do alone but would like help with if we can get it, and the jobs that might better be left to someone with more expertise. Just know at some point you are going to be that human crawling in the ditch and checking for gas leaks, the one responsible to see that the job is complete and correct.
No matter how you work it, ultimately, you still have to do the work.