Get over your ego and ask for help

Note: I am in NYC, and I am fine. I wrote this before Sandy came to town and couldn’t post it until now.

Here is a confession. I’ve never been entirely comfortable asking others for help. I know, I know I am not the only person who feels this way. After all, to ask is to obligate someone to answer. And feeling obligated  to respond is the last think I would want other people to feel.

For the longest time this has been my modus operandi, even though in my heart of hearts I understood that this position was silly and untenable. Now I think I am finally free of these notions, and I want to share what got it out of my system.

Just two weeks ago I was presented with an extraordinary opportunity to play a product manager for a product in an entirely unfamiliar category. To think of it, I would product manage an iOS game! You couldn’t imagine anything farther removed from diverse products like a data store to house data for 20M K-12 students or a low-power wireless networking stack for embedded devices, both of which I had worked on before.

This was and still is way out of my comfort zone, but the person who offered it seemed to trust me enough to say “if you feel like you can, you should”, and I accepted the offer. Here I was faced with a prospect of launching an iOS game in 3 months, and I knew absolutely nothing about the space. Once again I found myself at the very bottom of yet another learning curve.

If this happened, say, 5 years ago, my first inclination would have been to dive into an intense bout of self-directed study, to devour any and all information I could find on the subject, to sift though it, and to emerge from it, much like Neo in the Matrix, with the words “I know kung fu” on my lips.

Instead, I did something entirely different and unexpected, something that I would have never done before — I sent a simple email to people whose opinion on the subject I could trust.

Here was the message:

Hey <you>,
I am asking for your advice because I really trust your opinion and expertise.
You know I am always working on some cutesy project my own, but this is something different and much higher stakes for me personally, so I would appreciate you reading and responding to this email even if the answer is “nope”.
I am now involved with a small game development shop where I am responsible for launching an (obviously awesome) new iOS game. Think Angry Birds meets Tiki Totem. Sorta. More info like screenshots and videos will follow, if you are interested to stay in the loop.
This is an entirely new space for me, and I am starting from scratch. Hopefully, this is where you come in. What I am asking for is some advice, pointers, anything that you’ve heard about, and anyone you think I should try to talk to. I will gladly take it all.
Specifically, I am looking to talk to:
  • People who are doing/have done what I am trying to do
  • People who review games for fun and profit
  • People who are avid iOS gamers and understand those communities
  • iOS game developers
  • iOS publishers
  • You, if you’ve done this
If you know someone, I would appreciate an intro and will be forever in your debt. I promise not to recruit anyone if you tell me not to. :)
Thank you,
Every time I clicked “Send”, my ego protested. Would anyone respond? What would they think of the message? Would they feel obligated?  Mind you, the majority of these folks were not close friends of mine, and many of them I have never even met in person. I was really way out on a ego-torturing limb here.
Out of 20 people I emailed, 18 replied! Everyone who could offered support and help. More than half offered to intro me to exactly the kind of experts I was seeking. I’ve since spoken to so many awesome folks who I would never get to know had I not sent that email. It was a real breakthrough both in the sense of the great advice I got and how it changed my view of seeking that advice in the first place.
I guess what I am trying to say is that waking up and knowing kung fu makes for a great science fiction movie sequence, but it’s rarely the fastest or the most efficient way to learn.
PS: I will tell you about the game in my next post. In the meantime, you should really follow me on Twitter.

One response to “Get over your ego and ask for help

  1. Pingback: Bag Race, Remote Projects, and Multitasking in this Brave New World | Making Products Happen

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