My generation of middle-class United States citizens got the message that individual achievement was the measure of success. And we also learned to be rugged individualists—never let ’em see you sweat, big girls and boys don’t cry, no thanks, no help needed, no help wanted.

While there are still some holdouts who believe success and well-being are a personal matter, that delusion has been shattered for most of us. Today’s world works in collaboration—at least the smartest and happiest part of the world does.

There is no clearer distinction between old-thinkers and new-thinkers. An alliance-based approach to life marks the modern. We play video games with strangers, communicate on social networks, fund businesses and charities with a click, gather online to find friends and solutions. Ignore this reality at your peril.

For the most basic stuff in life—love, birth, illness, catastrophe, death—people need community. Wherever there is a need, the best solution is a caring circle of people whose collective strengths can make the difference. Well-tended relationships are life’s greatest joy, not to mention the greatest insurance policy. We are there for each other when the chips are down. Perhaps if Glinda had made clear to me how much I was going to need help, and how much help I was capable of giving, I would have been less of a loner.

And I wouldn’t have wasted so much time on projects that didn’t have widespread buy-in from key stakeholders. If an idea doesn’t have a community, it’s not going to survive. If the idea-generator can’t inspire a solid core of support to bring the idea forth, the idea stands little chance of success. Before I invest in an idea these days, I want to know if it is already resonating with a passionate core community that will be its life-support system as it grows. If something were to happen to the idea-generator, is the idea positioned to survive without that person?

Almost all of my unhappiest clients cling to an unshakable belief that they should do things for themselves, by themselves, despite being part of a healthy community of people who would be delighted to assist. Sometimes the greatest favor we can do for someone else is to allow them to help us. That’s how I learned to accept—and even ask for—help. I started out by “doing them a favor” by allowing them to help because I could see that it meant a lot to them. So I let them. And it turns out that help is, well, helpful.

Learning to be a gracious receiver opens the door to unprecedented opportunities. You won’t be able to enjoy them unless you can say a guilt-free “Yes, thank you!” to the offers life brings your way.

Excerpted from The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Women with permission of Amazon Publishing. ©2014 by Lonely Goat Media. All rights reserved.


ruth annRachel’s Network Member Ruth Ann Harnisch is a writer, an investor, a coach, philanthropist, and president of The Harnisch Foundation, which has given grants to hundreds of nonprofit organizations since its founding in 1998. She is a proponent of creative philanthropy whose unusual charitable investments have landed her on Oprah and the Today show.

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