How to Be Useful

Why Wanting to Change the World Isn’t Enough

When I first started out building a presence online, I was full of ideas about how I wanted to change the world. I really wanted to have an impact. I wanted to show people how to live and how to transform their lives.

This week, I watched an interview by Marie Forleo with Chris Gillebeau, and it made me think about what it means to be truly useful to others.

The interview itself is about his new book and about entrepreneurs and–specifically–“start-up” entrepreneurs, but something Chris said really resonated with me.

I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said that it’s not enough to be successful, you have to be useful.

This seems like common sense, but it isn’t.

Breaking the “I” Pattern

Do you see the flaw of my thinking when I first started out?

All of my ambitions seemed to be driven by altruism, but if you look closely, it was really all about me!

I want to show people how to live…but what if they don’t necessarily need to be shown how to live?

I wanted to help people transform their lives…but what if all they want to do is learn to be more happy with the life they have?

Because I was so focused on how I wanted to help them, I missed the boat!

I was trying to give to others what I most needed and wanted myself instead of focusing on what they truly wanted.

How to Be Useful

If you focus on giving what you most want and need to yourself first, then you will always have clarity about how you can best help and serve others.

In short, you will be useful by meeting others at the point of their need, not yours!

What do you think?

How are you most useful to others in the world?  How are others most useful to you?  What resources (books, websites, people, organizations) are most helpful?  Why?

I would love to hear your insight and get a good discussion going here on the subject of usefulness.

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve Rice and my goal is to transform simple philosophical truths into practical fuel to revolutionize your life. It's not about self-help, it's about self-reliance. I show you how. Connect with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and let me know how I can help you.

  • Loran

    It’s a big turnaround, Steve! I’ve been trying to focus on what I have to offer that is of value. I want to be helpful AND it isn’t about me. It takes some time to figure out what people need.

    • I’m with you there, Loran. It’s easy to get distracted by what *I* think people want or need instead of what they really want/need. Don’t you think?

      Have you had any luck or any specific clarifications of your own in this regard?

      • Loran

        I am reminded by other bloggers (such as yourself) to continually keep looking in the other direction – away from my self. I’m really not the center of the universe, go figure!

        Jonathan Mead reminded me today that I am not my audience!

        • Love that advice from Jonathan. Thanks for sharing it. Have you found specific tips or insights that have helped you uncover what your audience is looking for or how you can be most useful to them?

          Any other words of wisdom based on your experience for connecting to what is useful to people?

          I ask mostly because I agree with your initial assertion that it is an ongoing process.

          • Loran

            No, I don’t really have specific tips. I’m just at the beginning. If you figure it out, let me know!

            • Awesome! I think I just found a way to be useful! 🙂 I’ll be sure to pass on any tips that I learn in this regard. So glad you’re starting this process, though.

              I don’t know if you read Ashley Ambirge’s blog at The Middle Finger Project, but she has some good (albeit vulgar-ly clothed) advice on business and identifying your tribe, etc. You might check out her site if you haven’t already. Tara Gentile is also a great resource for this type of thing.

            • Hey @disqus_ktuKj8bD3D:disqus – saw this on FB today and wanted to make sure you saw it since it has to do with this conversation. Posted by Danielle LaPorte.

              If you want to build community, tell your story. – @zarias

              Seems like good thoughts.

  • Rhiannon Llewellyn

    Very well said, Steve! I love to tell my people that their work should serve THEM as well as THEIR PEOPLE. If it isn’t going both ways, it’s not useful for anyone.

    Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

    • Great point. It’s hard to do for others what we cannot do for ourselves. I think this has been the biggest challenge for me, though I’m finally getting it…it’s about being clear enough (and honest enough) about what I need and want so that I can be honest and clear about what I have to offer others.