What We Can All Learn from WNBA Athletes: #AskForHelp

After 56 years on the planet, I am finally embracing my strengths as well as my vulnerabilities. Like most people, I find it easier to focus on the former.

For me, vulnerability means asking for help. When I do ask for help, I do so knowing that it is not a sign of weakness but an intention to continue to grow and learn. I know it leads me to even more productivity, helping me to accomplish my goals.

Still, there are days I try to ignore my need for assistance. I pretend to believe that it is because I am a stubborn, high-achieving redhead! But watching this season’s WNBA playoffs, I experienced visceral pangs of memory of being on the court and asking for help without shame or hesitation. I absolutely know what this feels like!

Image via Yahoo Sports

When playing defense and your player gets a step ahead of you, you yell “HELP!” That’s it! And when I would yell HELP on the court, a teammate would find a way to step over and guard my player until I could recover. Simple, forceful, impactful… and, when executed well, completely effective. Having emergency open heart surgery and going through breast cancer were two other contexts in my life during which asking for help became deeply ingrained in me. As much as I resisted it, I know that the daily support I received in the form of food preparation, house cleaning, and playing games was critical to my recovery. These things were simple, but necessary. They saved my life.

So here I am glued to the television watching these strong, bold, seemingly invincible athletes yell “HELP!” when they get beat on defense and muscling through high fives when they work and score as a team… and I’m realizing how rare it is that any of us ask for help from each other in our professional and activist lives. Do we ask for sustenance or expertise in our movement building around gender equity? Do we shift from our own positions to support each other when it is time to move money and resources to women and girls? When it’s time to seek to extend our leadership voice? WNBA players remind me that if our collective “team” of feminists are to win and thrive, we need to know how and when to ask for help.

Asking for help starts with being vulnerable and a clear statement of intent. Here are my own intentions for our collective activist work. Feel free to use this CARE story with the bolded cues as a template for yourself:

I’m working on bringing my expertise in embodied leadership, philanthropy, and impact investing to push women to fully own their money and power. I’m helping by bringing forth data, tools, and resources for women to be courageous, confident, and bold in how they work with their time, talent, and treasure. You can help by naming the gender biases that influence your attitudes about what are appropriate money behaviors for men and women or where and how men and women should or should not show up in leadership. My impact has been felt at every high school, college campus, and recreational league where the women’s sport movement has been well-resourced. I know girls and women bring their embodied selves from the court to the world through the lessons of healthy competition. I imagine a world that honors matriarchal leadership in its own right, separate from patriarchal leadership. I imagine that we have an economy that values care, the arts, and transformational leadership at the intensity that we value brute force and transactional leadership. I imagine a world where businesses put people, planet, and purpose at the same level of influence as profit.

I shared this when I spoke this summer in my sister’s home town at the Door County Women’s Fund annual luncheon in Wisconsin. I invited leaders to talk about their beliefs and practices around money. By sharing my vulnerabilities first, I gave others a sense of comfort in doing the same. I have released so many emotions of shame around jumping class while settling into my place as a leader in the embodied leadership, gender justice, and impact investing movements. After three days sharing so openly with an intergenerational audience, my message was clear to everybody: GET IN THE GAME! Because the outcome of the game rests on how we play together and lean on each other for help!

Stating our intentions can feel incredibly vulnerable, right? Not only because it is raw and personal, but because it may mean exposing differences in political views. But similar to my own journey of remembering the value of asking for help, I know that we must be authentic together because the world needs women’s leadership now. Share your own CARE story with confidence and audacity.

We can take this principle right into our daily lives, too. If you need clarity from a friend, need more joy or playful energy, need to restore a relationship or create a new one, need knowledge, or need a meal prepared for you… be vulnerable and ask. If you need a colleague to show up with more accountability, need your children to show more compassion, need a good night’s sleep… ask for it. And if you need soft solo time to get back in touch with your heart, take the time. Be clear about your intent. Speak it, write it, draw it, build it, and then share it. Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness is a perfect reminder of how passing through our fears and having challenging conversations are forms of self-compassion that bring you closer to your vulnerability and your power.

So whether you are well-resourced or someone who has to watch every penny to get through the month, we are a sisterhood. Whether you are embedded inside a movement for justice (gender, climate, reproductive, racial) or wanting to get more engaged, we are a collective. If we yell for help when we really need it and work together, we maximize our time, talent, and treasure. I truly believe this is what will help us achieve all that we want and more.

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