Adding Value to Others: That is the True Definition of Success
Everybody loves a contributor, and no one likes a sourpuss. Which will you be?
How often do you consider what value you bring to whomever is in front of you?
My personal mission statement, which I recite during my morning and evening routines and consider often during the day, is: “I add value to every transaction and relationship I participate in.”
Would some version of a statement like that work for you? Try it on!
A Message of Gratitude
A huge part of service, or adding value to others, is gratitude. In honor of that claim. I’ll start with a list of the most important people and circumstances I’m grateful for in my life.
Starting with my family:
- My parents, Jane and Roger Stevens, along with my brother Thad and my deceased sister Mandy, helped me start my life on a good path. My cousin Cris Bagby participated in several years of this early life, and I love her like a sister. Of these wonderful people, Thad and his wife Sandy, and Cris remain on this earth. I thank them all, those passed and those here, every day for who they are, were, and who they’ve helped me become.
- My children, Brian and Tara Stevens, and Brian’s lovely family, including his wife Becki and children Toby and Josey. They’ve all enriched my life immeasurably, and I’m immensely proud of each of them.
- My ex-wife Helen Nado who, during our 17 years together, partnered with me to raise our children and who remains a strong positive influence in their lives.
- From Brookville, PA – Sam Astorino and Fred Philp, both of whom have gone to wherever their souls go, were wonderful friends to me during my time in their company.
- From State College, PA – Steve and Sherry Dershimer, Dave and Tina Dix, and Randy and Judi Kilmer. Steve, Dave, Randy and I owned an airplane in partnership (one of the few co-ownership arrangements I know of that operated and ended well – we’re still friends) for several years. Ken Wilson was a dear friend until he died about 2008 – we loved to discuss everything in the world.
- Also, from my time in State College, I have many great memories and friends from the Central PA Region of the SCCA. I hope many of you are still enjoying your cars and camaraderie.
- From Weare/New Boston, NH – Many wonderful friends I connect with whenever I visit (it’s been a while). Gerry Griffin stands out among them as one I’ve spent many pleasant hours with, discussing life, business, politics and many other things.
- My other significant association in NH was the Sports Car Club of NH. Many SCCNH members became close friends, and I’m sure some of them will read this. Thanks for many wonderful memories, everyone.
- Currently, in Cafayate and La Estancia de Cafayate (LEC) – I have many, many friends among the local people and the LEC residents and visitors. I won’t attempt to list them all, but David Galland and Marta Girone stand out as particularly close friends, confidants and mentors. When I came here for my first visit in 2010, I had appreciated David’s writing for several years, and meeting him was a wonderful experience, which has ripened continually over the years. David and I have spent many pleasant, and more than a few frustrating, hours on the golf course. David and his wife Deirdre live here most of the year, escaping our mild winters during the northern summers. Marta and I also met in 2010, and we clicked right away. That relationship has continued to develop, and she and her husband Mike will move here in 2023. We’ve enjoyed many breakfasts and social times discussing life. It’ll be wonderful to have them close.
This list leaves out many wonderful associations from earlier years, including friends, business associates, etc. As I’ve refined my outlook on life from my mid-20s (when I thought personalities were inconveniently complicated) to now approaching 80, I’ve gradually moved to appreciate people and relationships above all else. The people I’ve mentioned stand out in that evolving experience. Thank you all!
To borrow a line from William Henley’s Invictus poem. “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.” I also thank those gods, the universal intelligence, or whatever makes the world work as it does, for the health, beauty, peace, plenty, love, and life all around me.
The Importance of Adding Value to People
Business is done properly when each party to a transaction brings something the other(s) value more than the value they bring. Every party goes away satisfied that they received more than they contributed. It’s a win-win transaction. The sum of the value added for all the parties in win-win transactions is the economy’s growth.
Anything but a win-win transaction results in someone losing something.
An example of a win-lose transaction is someone holding a gun to another’s head to force them to do something against their will. Another is governments dictating to individuals or companies to do, or not do, something, resulting in a cost to the dictatee’s business or affairs.
A lose-lose situation can occur if two competitors for a promotion in a company spend their time on unproductive efforts to impress management. It’s likely neither gets the promotion, and the company loses the team’s productivity. Everybody loses. Good leadership can prevent this.
Zig Ziglar, a famous motivational speaker, said,
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Whenever you have a transaction or relationship where you don’t add value, you’re detracting from the wealth in the world, or, at best, not adding to it. You’re missing an opportunity to contribute to the universal wealth. Whenever you do contribute to that universal wealth, even if the value you add is respectfully expressing your opinion while you differ with someone else, the universe will give back to you doubly or triply.
Here’s a heartwarming story of a simple act of kindness resulting in a life-saving medical procedure many years later. The gist of the story Is a case in point of support for the claim I made in the last paragraph. – treat others well, and receive repayment in great abundance. A meaningful quote from the story: “We make a living from what we get…we make a life by what we give.”
So bring value, and you’ll receive value. That doesn't mean you agree with everyone. You honor others' opinions, agree to differ when you differ and strive always to bring value to your interactions with others. When you fail in that mission, as you will (we’re all human and therefore error-prone), make that failure a learning experience and strive to do better next time.
What is the True Definition of Success, and How Do You Measure it?
Some would define success as a certain income level or the size of a bank or investment account. Others would include a certain lifestyle – an expensive car or house, for example.
Earl Nightingale, author of The Strangest Secret and, according to many, father of the self-help movement, says this is tantamount to “putting the cart before the horse.” Here’s a famous quote from Nightingale:
“Now, success is not the result of making money; making money is the result of success – and success is in direct proportion to our service. Most people have this law backwards. They believe that you're successful if you earn a lot of money. The truth is that you can only earn money after you're successful.
That quote sets the tone for today’s theme.
What Does it Mean to Bring Value to a Relationship?
Relationships define our lives.
You have many different kinds of relationships:
- Service people,
- And many others.
We could continue that list ad infinitum.
The question is: Who are the most important of those people to bring value to? The answer: All of them! There are no unimportant relationships in your life.
The story of Dr. Howard Kelly from the link in the earlier section illustrates that a simple act of kindness toward someone who seems inconsequential in the moment can bring unexpected rewards later.
If the person toward whom you act kindly doesn’t have the opportunity to repay you, someone will. That’s the concept of “paying it forward.”
There’s a concept called the “emotional bank account:” Everyone makes deposits in and withdrawals from their emotional bank account. When you act kindly toward someone else, you make a deposit: when someone performs an act of kindness toward you, you make a withdrawal. Complaining about someone is also a withdrawal. Legitimately and respectfully discussing someone’s performance shortfall with them is neutral or can even be a deposit. Maintain a high positive balance in that account, and you’ll live a happy, fulfilling life, effortlessly benefitting from your interactions with others while they simultaneously benefit. Keep a negative balance in that account, and it will keep getting more negative – you’ll be viewed like the Grinch.
Think the waitress in a restaurant is unimportant? See what quality of service you get if you treat her that way. Then the next time you encounter a waiter or waitress, try treating them as the valuable person they are. You'll be stunned at the difference if this is a new idea for you! You’re making deposits and withdrawals in your emotional bank account, and so is the waitress. The point is that everyone gains in such a transaction.
Why is Value Important to Success?
Let’s say you start work for an employer. You’re ambitious, you have college debts to repay, and you want to buy a house.
You receive the salary increase you were promised when your probationary period ended. Now, it’s a year later. You’ve done everything you were asked to do.
Will you ask your boss for a raise because you’ve been on the job satisfactorily for a year?
Now let’s change the scenario. After the same year, you’ve done what was asked of you, and you’ve discovered a way to do some of your work faster while delivering a higher quality result. You’ve also paid attention to the work your manager was doing, asked questions and offered to take over some of the manager’s tasks.
Which scenario is likely to produce the biggest financial reward for you? If you have any doubt about the answer, refer to the previous sections, and especially to the quotes from Ziglar and Nightingale. I think you’ll find little doubt about what brings you success and what doesn’t.
How Do I Add Value to Other People?
The simplest answer to this question is to look at any situation you’re faced with from the other person’s perspective. Then treat them as you’d like to be treated if you were in their shoes.
If you were the waitperson in the example above, would you like to have the diner treat you as if you were below them and just a “robot” to serve them their food?
Now, suppose they asked you your name and then called you by it. If you’re not too rushed, maybe they asked you where you lived or if you had children. Think you’d like that better, and go out of your way to provide exceptional service to them?
In another example, suppose you’re the manager in the employment example we discussed. You have two employees, one following the “do as I'm told” recipe and one offering to make life easier for themselves and you. Which one gets the bigger raise, and the promotion when a position is available?
Many people seem to think it’s unfair when one person gets treated better than another in a similar position. I say it’s totally fair! Add value to every transaction and relationship you participate in, and good things will come to you in “unfair” proportion.
Be firm, direct and honest with your opinions and all communication. Display a pleasant personality, whether or not you agree with others' views. This approach will serve you and your relationships well.
Note: Archived issues of The Unity Community are available here. Search that page for keywords representing your particular interest. Most articles offer suggestions for ways of improving business and personal relationships. Keep in mind that business is done by…people. Every business concern is essentially an inter-personal concern.
A “Shot in the Arm” Every Day!
Eric Lofholm, my friend, mentor and sales coach, hosts a 15-minute motivational call every business day. The call is at 7:45 AM Pacific time. Join the call here.
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