The things we spend our time on need to push us forward in some way, I think we agree on that. Wasting your time reinforcing the walls of your cocoon will get you nothing but a harder to escape cocoon. The only people who want that are those intent on never maturing into what they are meant to be.
If that is not you, if you want more than a life of safety and comfort, you need to be driven by more than just the question “Does what I am doing now push me forward?”
You also need to think of others, of what they need and want and of how you can be of service. You need to also be thinking:
How can I create value for others?
Admittedly, there’s some overlap between the answer to this and the answer to the last question. A guy who’s focused on pushing himself forward, chasing the best version of himself, will generate value unconsciously for others just by doing his thing.
Still, it pays to be aware of what creating value for others is and of how to pursue doing so consciously.
Creating value is pretty simple. We create value for others whenever we provide a resource that fulfills one of their wants or needs. Doing this repeatedly until you gain a reputation for it is itself a means of creating value. People have a need for consistency. When you create value for others on a regular basis, you meet that consistency need.
Part of learning to create value is training yourself to see others’ needs. This can be harder than it sounds. People aren’t always forthcoming with their needs and desires. Many people aren’t even aware of their needs and desires. Sometimes creating value for people requires you to have a better understanding of others than they do of themselves.
Still, there are a few things you can count on. First, it makes sense to assume that, in general, most people aren’t totally unlike you. They probably want and need many of the same things you want and need. Getting to know your own needs and desires then can be a service to others.
Just like you have basic physical needs, so do others. Just like you want entertainment and diversion, so do others. Just like you want education and understanding, so do others. Just like you need encouragement to keep on pressing on, so do others. True, some people need less of these things than you do, but many people need much more. If you are truly stuck trying to figure out how to create value for others, just begin trying to make sure others have plenty of what you know you need. They may not respond, but you’ll be better for the effort. Creating value for others also requires having a standard. You must have a vision of the good life, some way of knowing in which direction “better” lies. Most people don’t know. At least, they don’t know until someone shows them.
If you want to focus on creating value for others, you have to know what others are like. Most people live in a fog of half-formed assumptions and physical impulses set against an endless loop of commercial jingles and sit-com snippets. When we ask how we can create value for them, one answer is simply to point to something deeper, a way of life more fulfilling and satisfying than the default “live to work, live to buy” lifestyle our culture encourages. Simply by making better choices in front of an audience, you create value by pointing in the direction that “better” lies.
Whatever the projects we undertake and devote a portion of our ever-diminishing time to, we have to answer the following questions: Does what I am doing meet the needs or desires of others? Does it instruct, inspire or entertain them in some way? Does it help them as they feel their way toward a better situation?
If the answer is no, shift direction. Making that shift is tough because activities that create no value are always easier than value creating work. Shifting to value creation requires getting up off the couch and putting our backs into it.
Once that shift is made, however, things start to get fun. It’s not always easy to see, but creating value for others is rewarding. Creating value for others, in the long run, feels good. Do it long enough, and you will begin wanting to experience those rewards again and again. You become addicted to a positive, value-making life until eventually you see that creating value for others is the also the best way to create it for yourself.
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