I’ve been spending a little more time than I’d like lately at my orthodontist’s office (yup, I needed braces as an adult). But the other day I heard a great line there that made it (almost) all worthwhile.

I’d gone in for an appointment because my permanent retainer had come loose (Is this TMI? Sorry), and though my actual orthodontist wasn’t in that day (the fabulous Dr. Jennifer Salzer, if you’re looking for someone), one of the hygienists examined me. After she took a look, she explained that the problem was more complicated than she could handle and she was going to ask an associate named Amy to take a look.

Amy proved to be masterful. She fixed the problem with such deft hands that I felt as if I had brain surgeon working in my mouth.

“You girls were wonderful,” I said gratefully when it was time for me to leave. They both thanked me for saying so. As I stepped out of the room, the first woman who’d examined me added, “I appreciate you including me in the compliment. I guess I just had the sense to say, “Let me go get Amy.” 

She was speaking literally, but I thought the expression worked beautifully on a figurative level. Sometimes in life, no matter how smart and accomplished we are, we don’t have all the knowledge or experience or tools we need to handle certain situations, and in those cases it’s just so freaking wise to realize that we need to “go get Amy.” Or whoever. I owe much of my success in life to having figured this out over time.

In some cases getting Amy is about reaching out to friends for guidance. The right friends, those that have your back, can offer solid advice.

When I was running Cosmo I saw a fascinating study which revealed that our friends are far more capable than we are of predicting if a love relationship we’re involved in will last or not. That’s because sometimes we’re too entrenched to see the truth. But we have to be willing to listen once we ask for guidance. (And one caveat: Only ask for guidance from people who have some expertise in the subject. In other words, don’t ask your non-working friend how to negotiate a raise.)

I’m also a big believer in going to experts for certain types of guidance. I learned how to be a better public speaker by working with several wonderful speech coaches over the years. My home is vastly more pulled together than it used to be because I enlisted a professional decorator in the process. A makeup artist I hired taught me how to make my eyes look less hooded on TV. And my life is more organized because I’ve been guided by amazing time-management experts.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. Hiring a pro is easy for someone like me who is advanced in her career and has more disposable income. If you’re young, it’s too cost prohibitive to run around hiring experts.

But there are wonderful shortcuts you can take. I first learned about public speaking by taking four-week adult ed class from a wonderful coach. Cost: $45 total (granted, this was way back in the 70’s but even then it was cheap). When, at age 33, I wanted to fix up my divorced-girl apartment, I did a barter deal with a friend’s brother who was an associate at a decorating firm: Cost: two free meals cooked by me for an hour’s worth of advice. Though I was able to eventually work regularly with a professional makeup artist, up until then I learned tons from those free experts at cosmetic counters (just don’t feel obligated to buy a gazillion products from them!). Cost: nothing. And before I could afford to hire productivity expert Julie Morgenstern to spend a morning with me and give me feedback, I read several great books on time management. Cost: maybe $50.

As a sample, are a few fab tricks I learned from experts over the years:

On public speaking: When you’re done writing your speech, lop off the first paragraph (which usually contains the line “I’m so happy to be here”) and just jump into the speech. It will be far more captivating from the get go. (Hint: a woman recently told me her speech coach counseled her to start with the line: “When I was five years old….”). And because it’s more captivating, you will feel much more comfortable speaking those opening lines.

On decorating: If one of your rooms ends up with two shades of a color that don’t work very well together, add a third shade of that same color. Suddenly, things are no longer fighting each other.

On makeup: If your eyes are at all hooded like mine, wear brown or grey eye shadow and take it way above the crease in your lids.

On productivity: Answer emails only five or six times a day rather than every few minutes. You will save a huge amount of time.

So don’t be afraid to reach out for advice. Is there something you’re stuck on right now? Well, go get Amy!