Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about some of the intangible traits that define “who we are” or “who our company is.” We’ve been looking at Rule #11 from my Rules of Attraction: Who we are is more important that what we do.
In my last few Business Updates I wrote about Integrity, Vision and Enthusiasm. Today I’d like to look at another trait that makes up “who” we are – selflessness.
Henry Stimson, Secretary of War during World War II once said, “no one who is thinking of himself can rise to great heights.” It sounds nice. It looks good in quotes. But the reality is that this statement runs counter to what most people truly believe and how we live our lives. In fact it is the opposite of what most of us are taught as children. That is, we must FIGHT for what is ours. Even in school we teach our children evolution. We beat into their little heads – the survival of the fittest. Only the very best make it to the top. We make no bones about the fact that we live in a dog-eat-dog world. Where is selflessness in all of this? Don’t get me wrong I am in no way saying that I live up to this trait. I am ashamed to say that I often fail miserably at being selfless. I do think it is necessary that we illuminate the fact that those who have molded their character to a selfless mindset ultimately create attraction and bring about change.
There has already been much written on the lives of those famous selfless individuals who have changed the world. People like Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. I will not dedicate extensive discussion to their accomplishments in this book but as point of illustration allow me to touch on them briefly. I think you will see that their selfless actions did in fact create massive attraction. I will attempt to demonstrate that this type of character-based attraction, like integrity, vision and enthusiasm can be implemented in a powerful and genuine way by regular folks like you and I.
In his youth Gandhi was a regular guy. In fact the name Gandhi means “grocer.” Educated as a lawyer in England he ultimately managed to lead his people to freedom from British rule by practicing nothing BUT selflessness. He never wavered in his unshakable belief in nonviolent protest and religious tolerance. When Muslim and Hindu compatriots committed acts of violence, whether against the British, or against each other, he fasted until the fighting ceased. Independence, when it came in 1947, was not a military victory, but a triumph of human will.
Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta from 1931 to 1948. However the suffering and poverty she saw outside the convent made a profound impression on her. She asked for permission from her superiors to leave the school and devote herself to working with the destitute and dying in the slums of Calcutta. Although she did not have a single penny, she relied on Divine Providence, and began the first school for slum children without even a building. Her selflessness attracted volunteers and eventually financial support. By the 1990s there were over one million Co-Workers in more than 40 countries.
While selflessness is indeed a rare commodity today, I think we can all give a bit of ourselves for someone else. We don’t have to be Gandhi or Mother Teresa to help another person. I think this is as relevant in business as it is in our personal lives. How often do we place our own interests before the clients? How often do we let our egos get in the way just because we can? If I had to answer that I’d have to say, TOO OFTEN!
What would happen if we took the long view, overlooking a confrontation in favor of a selfless approach? Do you think it would create attraction? I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar on that. In a society that focuses on gratifying ourselves, imagine the impact we can create with our clients, shareholders and team members when we take our eyes off ourselves and look to a brighter future.