Adding Value To Other People- Your Life Mission
What can you do to add value to other people?
I think figuring out the answer to that question should be your life’s mission.
I believe it will lead to a freer, more just and more happy world.
In your job, how have you been adding value to other people? Do you feel like you are, or is there more that you can do?
Adding value isn’t just about your career of course, it is about your whole life. Value here doesn’t automatically mean money- although of course it could if that is the way you help people. You add value into the world through every relationship you have- every friend you help, every stranger you care about, every family member you support, every child you bring up, every time you care about anyone else.
My life and career so far has been a series of attempted answers to that question. Some of my thought processes around the subject can be seen in this interview. Over time (a long time!) I have concluded that the best way I can bring value to other people is through helping them to grow their influence so they can increase the impact they have on the world. These thoughts culminated in the launch of my business, The Influence Expert.
I hope that I will focus on this area for a long time because I am fascinated by it- but if for whatever reason I don’t, I will take my learning from it and try to find a new way to bring value to other people.
I have even interviewed more than 70 people to see how they would answer some of the questions about bringing value into the world. They come from many different backgrounds and focus on many different areas but they all care about bringing value to others and constantly find new ways to do so.
Learning how to bring value to others- learning what they want from any given interaction- is of course one of the most fundamental parts of being an influencer. Unless you think about what other people want, not just what you want, you will never influence them.
At a very simple level, imagine you are being sold a product. Will you be convinced to buy because the salesperson tells you that they need you to give them cash so they can meet their monthly target? Unlikely. In order to get you to buy, they would have to find a way to understand your needs and show how their product could fulfil them.
Every time you meet another human being, whether face to face or online, you need to keep what they want uppermost in your mind. Only then will you be able to truly connect with them. It might be that they are interested in what you have to offer but that there is something else getting in the way of your message- maybe for some reason they can’t connect with the language that you use or you aren’t credible to them in some way. Trying to see things from their perspective will help you to solve the puzzle.
How can you add value to them? How can they add value to you (because it is likely that many people will want to add value in return if they like the value you have provided)- perhaps there is a way they can help you like recommending you to others, writing you a review or offering to help you out in some way in the future.
I can guess what some people reading this will be thinking- isn’t this adding value to everyone else a bit exhausting? What about me and my needs? What if I just want to have a rest?
My answer to you is that before offering any value to other people, you need to think about your own basic needs first. This isn’t selfish, it is essential.
Only if you take care of yourself will you be able to offer value to others.
I can see times in my life when I have been trying too hard to offer value to others and haven’t looked after myself enough. Like everyone, I can do that for short bursts perhaps but I need to make sure that I eat right, exercise enough, get enough sleep and have time to ‘switch off’ for a bit. When I have tried to push myself for too hard for too long, I am no use to anybody. So, self-care has to happen first. Even if you are doing good for other people, in fact, especially if you are, you need to think about this. You might like to check out this book from one of my heroes, Beth Kanter.
As well as self-care, there is something else you need to think about of course- adding value to yourself. Think of all the things that you might have done in your life to add value to yourself, like going to university, going on a course, reading books, going to a conference or teaching yourself a new skill. When you add value to yourself, you can pass on that value to others in so many ways.
Another thing to think about: when I say above that I was trying too hard to offer value, of course I don’t mean that I was always achieving it. Some things I have tried have gone down complete dead ends (remember, failure is an important part of growing your influence over time too!). Sometimes I have taken the easiest option rather than the one that has offered most value to others- sometimes I have been lazy. What I am sure, however, is that I have gradually been on a journey to work out how I can provide the greatest value to others.
It was a video from the brilliant Dorie Clark that inspired me to think more deeply about this subject. I urge you to watch it and to check out all of her work. You can find her on Twitter here.
How you choose to add value to other people is up to you. I suspect that like me, learning the best way for you to add value is something that you will work out over a very long period of time and will change over the course of your life. It will change because you are constantly changing but also because other people are constantly changing- so the value that they need from you will change. Not only that, but the value that you provide is relative to the value others provide. If you are the only person in the world with your particular skills maybe you can provide a lot of value to people (and maybe make a lot of money doing it). If nearly everyone has your skills, perhaps you can’t provide value in the same way. Even so, you have a vast range of options if you want to help others. You could find new ways to share your skills that others aren’t trying, find a better way of teaching beginners who want to acquire your skills, or collaborate with other people to make something entirely new.
I hope that I have convinced you that adding value to others is a suitable life mission- thanks for everything you already do to support, encourage, teach and inspire other people.
Alex Swallow is The Influence Expert and author of 'How To Become An Influencer'. A free copy of the book and many tips about growing your influence can be found at www.theinfluenceexpert.com. You can join his online course, 'How To Network' free here. He is also the Owner of the social good interview series, Social Good Six, you can access all the interviews here.