Last year, I set out to come up with a single sentence that could guide both my career and personal decisions. It turned out to be,
Be generous and expert, trustworthy and clear, open-minded and adaptable, persistent and present."
Only after months of living by these words did I realize that all these elements came down to a single powerful habit, which is to start every interaction by thinking: help this person. Let me explain...
Generous means to start every personal interaction with three words in your head: help this person. When you answer the phone, when someone knocks on your door, when you get introduced to a new colleague, your first instinct should be to help that person. Yesterday I was driving my 14-year-old son back from a school event and I made an observation about the event that wasn't entirely positive. His response was, "How is that helping this person?"
That quick exchange taught me two things. It's not enough to say you are generous, you actually have to work hard every day to live that way. I'm trying hard, but it is challenging, I admit. But more importantly, I learned that my son now has these words in the front of his mind, and that is a very good thing.
Expert means to be talented enough in certain areas that you can help others in a meaningful manner. This is where many people completely miss the mark. The main reason to become a expert is not so you can make more money; this attitude will limit your potential. The main reason is so you can help more people, more often.
Trustworthy means to be someone others turn to both in times of need and of opportunity. In such moments, other people are especially vulnerable and they need to know you will not only respect their confidentiality but also deliver on your promises.
Clear means that you fully understand your role is to be someone who helps with a purpose. You aren't just a Good Samaritan; although your first thought is to help others, you also have a set of goals to achieve for yourself, your family and your organization. You make it easy for others to understand these goals. In this way, you will have the time to help others and still be able to accomplish what you need to do.
Here's a really tough one: open-minded means that you are willing to help people you initially might find unworthy of help. Yesterday at an event, a woman pushed right past my colleague and I - who were patiently waiting to talk with the host - to capture his attention. At first, my thoughts about her weren't too kind, but as we again waited our turn, it dawned on me that her behavior was perhaps generated by anxiety or a pressing need, and that she was probably in such a state of tunnelvision that it never even dawned on her that we were waiting. People in this state are the ones who need help the most.
Adaptable means that you are not just a helpful person with a hammer, trying to pound everything into better shape. When one approach doesn't work, you are willing to try others. Don't just tell someone, "Here's what I'd do in this situation." Think hard about the best strategy for helping them, given their personality, preferences and position.
Persistent means to be serious about helping others, and not just superficial. I'm not simply suggesting you start holding the door open for more people; I'm suggesting you become a force who helps other people in a substantive way. The people who need help the most won't be helped by a ten-second gesture.
Present means to pay attention to the people around you so that you can spot those who are struggling, confused or uncertain. Most of us try to put on a good face, and you need to see past the superficial layer of daily life.
ADD ALL THIS UP, and you become the type of person others love to have around them. You become someone who listens, who is genuinely interested in others, who is capable and dependable. Who you are - and how you approach the world - will change.
And now comes the personal payoff: you will be dramatically more capable of achieving your own purpose.
If you can remember and live by this sentence, you can achieve anything you set your mind to do. Anything.
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