A Little Help From My Friends
By Peter L DeHaan
need a hobby,” my wife exclaimed in exasperation. I
don’t recall the circumstances, but it is safe to assume that I was
doing something she deemed a nuisance. Regardless
of the cause of her frustration, her impromptu advice gave me pause.
Yes, a pastime, a relaxing diversion, would be good, but what
should I do?
briefly considered stamp and coin collecting, both of which I
sporadically dabbled in during my youth. But I
realized that my interest lay solely in the hope of stumbling onto a
valuable find or realizing greatly appreciated value over time.
These were not hobbies but investments, investments which
demanded time, organization, and planning. They
would be more like work – far removed from a relaxing hobby.
asked myself what I was interested in. What about
my proclivity for watching classic movies? To be a
true hobby, I reasoned, it must consist of more than watching timeless
films. It seemed that to reach hobby status, I
would need to collect them, catalog them, or perhaps read about them.
This additional effort, however, would serve to diminish my
infatuation with ageless cinema.
I considered a passing, yet ongoing attraction to crossword puzzles.
Even though I had only rarely picked up a crossword puzzle and
was never able to complete one, it did seem like a worthy pursuit, a
good complement to my interest in words and my longstanding effort to
use them to help, educate, and inspire. Yes, I
concluded, crossword puzzles would be my new hobby. I
began looking for these word challenges, setting aside time to
contemplate and complete them, reasoning that with a consistent effort
I would improve. I was wrong. By
my own initiative, I had not been able to develop my skills.
turning point came by chance, on a plane. As I
puzzled over the seemingly impossible offering in the airline
magazine, I sensed that my seatmate was reading over my shoulder.
Finally, no longer able to contain herself, she gently
whispered, “You should know 12 down.” I looked
at the clue anew and an answer formed in my mind. I
shared my suspicion with her and with a pleased smile, she confirmed
it to be correct. Immediately, she apologized for
intruding, but I assured her that her help was appreciated.
Though she attempted to distract herself, a few minutes later
she was again captivated by my perplexing puzzle, so I slid the
magazine in her direction, allowing us both to see it. She
quickly directed my attention to another clue, encouraged me think in
a different direction, and then confirmed my uncertain solution.
Again, she apologized and again I said it was okay.
This pattern repeated itself throughout the flight and soon we
had most of the puzzle complete. I learned that she
was a retired schoolteacher and that one of her many interests was
crossword puzzles. She shared with me tips for
discerning a puzzle’s theme and how to tap in to it. She
gave advice on deciphering seemingly arcane clues and cutting through
the deceit of intentionally misleading references. In
the span of an hour, she gave me the direction and education that I
needed to improve my skills and increase my enjoyment in my nascent
interest of mine is horticulture, one instilled in me by my parents,
but I only gave it passing attention for many years. My
home’s landscape once consisted only of green grass and
strategically placed trees. Inside the house were
one miniature orange tree and a lone aloe plant. (Aloe
is a reoccurring word in many a crossword puzzle.) To
increase the greenery inside and add color outside, I endeavored to
tap into this slumbering fascination with plants. Again,
guidance was in order and easily found in my parents. They
have more insight and experience in this area than anyone else I know.
Plus, any additional information can be quickly uncovered in
their treasure trove of resource books, which would rival or surpass
many a library. Now my yard has an abundance of
carefully selected plants and shrubs, designed to add color and beauty
throughout the growing season. My indoor collection
has also greatly expanded, at times prompting complaints of
overflowing its designated areas.
of us, myself included, need guidance in many endeavors, not just
hobbies. A few years ago when I embarked on a
consulting career, many people gave me sage advice. Three
people in particular stand out. One was an industry
friend who helped me sort through and clarify a transition strategy
and first year game plan. Another was an industry
consultant who shared years of experiences and warned of common
pitfalls. The third was a consultant in a parallel
industry who gave expert recommendations for a pricing strategy.
Together, these folks shortened my learning curve and paved the
way to success.
similar fashion, when I bought Connections Magazine, the
sellers provided a wealth of advice, guidance, and recommendations.
Even now, with the formal consulting commitment long past, they
continue to generously share ideas and observations. I
also needed assistance from a publishing insider and contracted with
an industry guru who quickly got me up to speed on standard practices
and procedures for the magazine business.
another article, “It’s All Virtual,” I mentioned that I have
outsourced key aspects of my publishing business. Though
I could lay out and design each issue, it is better left in the
capable hands of a graphic artist, whose creativity and genius far
surpasses anything I could offer. Similarly, I
could handle advertising sales, but that important task is better
suited to the focus, tenacity, and precision of someone more suited to
that important role. Additionally, I tap a team of
proofreaders to review each article, performing the final edits,
correcting grammar, checking punctuation, and ensuring that each piece
is clear and understandable
with most businesses, I have an attorney to assist with legal matters
and a CPA to navigate the maze of accounting and tax issues imposed by
the IRS. Like many of you, I have a computer and
technology expert available to guide me through the latest
developments with Microsoft, the Internet, and computer software and
point is that I get help from many people. With
some, it is a formal, contractual arrangement; with others, it is
informal and freewheeling. In all cases, it helps
me find a quicker and better path to an end goal or desired result.
of this is “outsourcing” in one form or another. I
am convinced that any aspect of an organization could be and has been
outsourced. Indeed, no person can master everything
and no organization can excel in all areas. If
someone else can do something you can’t, tap into his or her
expertise; it is foolish to proceed under your own resolve.
Likewise, if another organization can do something better than
you can, form a partnership or outsourcing arrangement. Today,
when excellence is expected and demanded, are you better off to do an
acceptable job in house or to do a superb job with the help of others?
can all use a little help from our friends.
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