#121 Failure – ‘How (Not) To Help People’

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It is the middle of spring so it is the perfect time to start talking about Santa Claus. A name I used to spell ‘Santa Clause’, when I was younger. Which is actually a little known statute in corporate law that dictates companies who own skyscrapers above 183m must construct helipad facilities*. Whilst on the topic of law, the real Santa Claus surely must be pulled up on his consistent inability to meet the standards of an equal opportunity employer, if not out-and-out slavery.

So that tedious link, in that paragraph, exsists to say: Santa has helpers, and I like helping. Well I say like helping, I like to think a lot about helping; how I would do it, what I would say, where I would tell them to go and where to eat.

I flew back from Scotland today, and it has been a long journey and a tiring one. My tiredness subsided though when I noticed an old couple next to me flicking through a ‘Rough Guide to Vienna’ book and a print out of the metro system.

Santa’s Little Helper Mode Engaged.

I waited patiently beside them, I turned off my music, but left the earphones in so it looked like I was still listening, when in reality I wanted to make sure I heard them when they asked for help. And they would ask for help, I mean I’d so far never spoken a word to them, so why they wouldn’t assume someone next to them also spoke english and knew the city well is anyones guess. But the important thing is; I was ready.

I’d planned it out, they were looking at some classic tourist spots and I was primed with a few ‘off the beaten track’ suggestions, directions included (bonus points). I knew they wanted to ask me, they would look over occasionally and the questions were clearly on the end of their lips, but I didn’t want to jump in all guns blazing, I’m the cool guy living in Vienna – they have to come to me. I was playing hard to get.

Long story short; they didn’t come to me.

I realised after about 30 minutes that the reason they were looking over was because I’d been staring at them for the first 30 minutes of the flight, the lady was edging away from me and began reading the guide-book like a kid at school hiding the answers to an ongoing test.

I suspect if I had gently broached the topic in the first few minutes when I noticed the map and the worried discussions about what to do at the airport, instead of playing hard to get, I probably would have been more help. Playing hard to get when you aim to disseminate information is not the strategy, and you won’t convince me otherwise.

I think it was Edison who once said* that he had not failed 10,000 times but successfully found 10,000 ways something won’t work. Well, there’s a long way to go on my Santa’s Little Helper journey but I have managed to find 1 way it won’t work. 9,999 times to go – and to be honest, that actually seems quite attainable.


*Entirely made up. 

*He actually said 700 times and he wasn’t quite so eloquent with his line, but it has morphed into this modern phrase because no one cares about the truth anymore it sounds nice.



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  1. notdonner

    I was a Boy Scout, so I imagine jumping from my car at the stoplight to help the lady who is taking 2 cycles (I am exaggerating) to get across the street. On a walk, I see tourists speaking to each other in French, and as I pass I am readying myself to respond with directions. I scared one couple a few years ago by making small talk in Russian to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bipolarsuccess

      LOL. I do the same frantic practice of foreign languages in my head thing, just in case that tourist sitting across from me on the subway needs me. The few times it has actually come to pass, I have utterly botched it, grammatically and directionally.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. notdonner

        Thanks for enjoying my posts! It used to be a little challenging when I would try to speak , say French, but the Russian word would pop in my head instead. Sometimes my brain races a half-minute ahead of my mouth.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jessica Bakkers

    I actually must remember this. It’s a good way to put off the “can you help me” folk who ALWAYS zero in on me! No kidding! Hubby and I were on hols in America down south when this car pulls up, two northern Americans get out and ask us for directions. I smiled and in my best Aussie drawl say “Na mate, got no idea, sorry!”
    I don’t know if it’s because we look American or just approachable but guaranteed every time we’re on hold there this happens!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Carlene W.

    I’ve never had the fear of helping others. But, I’m sure at times people had wished I didn’t try to help. When I was younger, I would hold navk, but at the halfway mark in my life, I have come to realize life is too short to worry about it. I think what bothers me the most is when I offer help and it’s not needed, then I think maybe I misunderstood the cue, but I just shrug it off. We are all created differently. And no Santa Claus talk-after 16 years in retail, I’ll wait until October, thanks. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul Sunstone

    I used to try to help people, but around age 50 I discovered it was easier and more fun to mess with them — especially if they were young (teens) and not yet accustomed to bad advice from sage-looking old folks. Just kidding, of course. The truth is I give bad advice even without trying to mess with people.


  5. Carolina

    I’m sorry. I got distracted when you said you were returning from Scotland…
    I can only imagine how nice the scenery was-what with all the hottest men on the planet there and all…

    Liked by 1 person

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