This Year, Focus on Others and Help Yourself

Consider the idea of doing well by doing good.

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Curt Rosengren

As you look at your goals for the year to come, ask the question, “How can I serve?” How can you help someone? Where are your opportunities to give?

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My personal philosophy is that giving and helping is part of what we’re here to do, but in this post I want to look at a more bottom-line aspect—the idea of doing well by doing good. There are numerous reasons why I think doing well by doing good works. One of the big ones is that “what goes around comes around.” I don’t mean it in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of way. In my experience, it’s almost never a direct trade like that. Rather, when you focus on helping and giving, you are often the recipient of helping and giving from some other direction.

I don’t pretend to know the mysterious secrets of the universe. I can’t tell you the equation that translates your giving actions into benefits for yourself. What I do know is that in my personal experience, almost everything I have been able to accomplish in my own career has been driven in some way by focusing on how I can help others.

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I can, in a way, trace the fact that I am writing this right now to looking for ways to give. In the '90s, I was a marketing guy in the high-tech industry. I was a schmoozy beast, so I ended up knowing a lot of people in the tech marketing arena. At some point people realized this and started E-mailing me about job openings, asking if I knew anyone who would be interested.

When I was first trying to break into the tech industry, I received a lot of help from many different people. As more and more people started letting me know about job openings, I realized that I had an opportunity to give back. So I started a jobs list for Seattle-area high-tech marketing positions, and started distributing the postings to a broader group of people.

When I launched my Passion Catalyst business in 2001, the list was reaching about 1,800 people, all of whom received multiple E-mails from me each week with job openings. In the first two years of my business, every client I had could be traced back in some way to my job list, whether they were a subscriber or referred by a subscriber. So, my effort to give back actually became the springboard for me to take the next huge (and immensely rewarding) step in my own career.

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The benefits you receive from giving and helping may have a direct correlation like that, or it may be more indirect. By giving and helping, you start creating a kind of ecosystem around you that is conducive to other people reaching out to assist you. When you focus on helping, it affects how people look at you. People often become more interested in reaching out and lending you a hand as well.

And there seem to be benefits that are completely detached from directly observable cause and effect. You may focus your efforts in one direction, and receive assistance from totally different quarters.

I’m not here to tell you that there is a “law” of giving and receiving. I don’t actually know how it works, but in my life it seems to, and I’ve seen the same in the lives of others. Rather than accepting what I say out of hand, what if you label 2010 “The Great Giving Experiment?” What if you start actively looking for ways to be of service to others? Maybe that would involve being a mentor. Maybe it’s recommending a great book, or making a connection between people you think should know each other. Look for opportunities, and then watch and notice. See what happens. You just may discover something powerful.

If nothing else, it will probably feel good. Not a bad worst-case scenario.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As a speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.