John Maxwell and I recently experienced one of the most challenging trips we have ever been on:
- 17 days
- 6 countries
- 96 hours on planes or in airports
- 59 hours in the air
- 37 hours waiting to get in the air.
- 19 airports
To say it was tiring would be a huge understatement. As we jumped from one plane to another I couldn’t help but think—John is 72 years old and still giving himself away!
While we were in one middle Eastern country, a couple came up to us at a restaurant as we were eating. The husband spoke through a translator and said, “Mr. Maxwell, I had to come up and meet you! Several years ago someone gave me one of your books and it changed my life, it changed my business, and it changed my faith.”
In that moment, I was reminded of something John has said to me many times through the years – “I write books because they reach further than I can personally touch.”
Why does John continue doing what he is doing at his age? Because he is still adding value to people who are multiplying value to others.
John has made his life one long gift and I believe this is what keeps him going. I also believe that this is what keeps him healthy, because a life focused on yourself is an unhealthy life.
Dr. Karl Menninger, a well-known psychiatrist, has an intriguing take on the effects of focusing on others. He says, “Generous people are rarely mentally ill people.”
When Dr. Menninger was asked what advice he would give to someone who felt a nervous breakdown coming on, his response was different than you probably would expect: “Go find someone in need, and do something to help that person.”
The positive effects of helping others are significant. Developing a generous spirit will help you overcome some feelings of deficiency in a positive and healthy way. You will be less likely to focus on yourself if you are helping someone else.
Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want if you help enough people get what they want.”
Let’s look at how you can turn the focus from yourself and start adding value to others:
1. Put others first in your thinking
Let me ask you a challenging question: when you meet people, is your first thought about what they’ll think of you or how you can make them feel more comfortable? Your answer will reveal your heart. To add value to others, you need to start with putting others ahead of yourself in your mind and heart. If you can do it there, you will be able to put them first in your actions as well.
2. Find out what others need
You can’t add value to people if you don’t know what they value. Listen to people! Observe them. Ask what matters to them. Here’s something helpful that I’ve discovered – if you know how people spend their time and money, you’ll know what they value.
3. Meet needs with excellence and generosity
Once you know what matters to people, do your best to meet their needs. Offer your best without worrying about what you will receive in return. This step requires concrete action, but you will see the greatest return on your investment when you follow through with excellence and generosity.
These principles work just as effectively for your business. President Calvin Coolidge said, “No enterprise can exist for itself alone. It ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others.”
A company, any company, will cease to be profitable and eventually cease to exist if it only exists for itself.
If you or your company has developed a selfish streak, examine your attitude and determine to make it a priority to meet the needs of others. Ask yourself these three questions either at the beginning or at the end of each day:
- Whom am I encouraging today?
- Whom am I pouring my life into?
- Whom am I helping who cannot help me in return?
These questions have helped me focus more on others, and I believe they will help you too.
Consider making your life one long gift. You might just find yourself traveling the world at age 72 with a front row seat to see the impact of your work.