My senior year of high school, I decided to become a volunteer firefighter. In order to do so, I had to complete 90 hours of training, plus a final test called the Fire Maze. The objective was simple: Rescue a dummy inside a flaming, empty farm silo.
My partner and I entered the silo together. His job was to touch the wall at all times to avoid getting lost. Meanwhile, I held his hand and did sweeps with my other hand. As the flames blazed and the smoke grew thicker, our oxygen tank alarm bell went off early. We panicked. I let go of my partner, and he let go of the wall. The veteran firefighters had to rescue us. Once we were out, they keyed us in to a few things. First, the bell intentionally went off early as a false alarm. And second, we were the only dummies—the real test was whether we would surrender to the panic.
I see this type of figurative panic happen frequently in the workplace. We’re swamped with work and instead of asking our co-workers for help, we flail and then fail. We think asking for help is a sign of weakness and that being self-reliant is the key to success. But the opposite is true: Realizing we cannot do something and need help shows both humility and strength. Relying on others can help us better reach our goals.
Next time you’re afraid that you might not hit a goal, don’t let go. Instead reach out to your support network. Successful people know who they can rely on when it seems like the flames are engulfing them. Hold on to the greatest predictor not only of success but of happiness: other people.