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We Can't Do It All On Our Own

Using research on trees to learn to ask for help and appreciate those who have helped you.

Trees are pretty simple, right? They compete for sunlight, in the most simplistic sense. You can learn the age of a tree by cutting a cross-section through it (which also leads to insights on the climate during its lifetime). They need light and water. There's something called photosynthesis -- a process I forget immediately upon graduating high school-that helps us humans breathe.

Trees are good. But simple.

I recently listened to this story, and it changed my mind about the simplicity of trees. And just yesterday I came across Suzanne Simard's research again in a TED Radio Hour episode.

It turns out, trees are incredibly complex. They have a vast communication network underground. They don't compete, they work together. It isn't survival of the fittest, but of the group as a whole. And there are even mother trees that recognize and protect their kin.

Listening to these stories (I'd suggest the RadioLab story if you're going to listen to one) got me thinking that if trees -- this simple beasts of pure nature -- need one another to survive, how can we -- complex human beings -- possibly think we can do it all on our own?

Whether it's running a household, building the next great app, writing a book, fighting for freedom, or working to remove Donald Trump from office, we can't do it alone.

It's important to reflect that even if you think you're doing something on your own, it likely took thousands (or maybe millions) of people for you to be able to do what you are doing. If it's a house and you're on your own, think of everything you need to make the house function-appliances, insulation, a mattress. You didn't invent and you (probably) didn't build any of them. Likewise, it's unlikely that you're going to build an app without a computer, or write a book without paper (or a computer), or lead a political stance without a massive human following.

Take a moment in your day to appreciate that -- that you couldn't be doing what you're doing without other people.

And recognize that if you really, truly want to succeed in this life, it's going to take help -- help from other people.

Ask for the help you need, then succeed.

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