3 Things, in the Right Order

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I was just reading the June issue of Mensa Bulletin, the magazine of American Mensa (whose standards are clearly much lower than you’d think), and in it is a feature about the best advice its members have ever received. One in particular, submitted by Bernard Kitt, Ph.D., caught my eye. He writes:

There are only three things to remember:

  1. I will be happy
  2. I will make some money
  3. I will make other people happy

One hundred percent of the people I saw agreed with the three, but not one of them had the order right! Get them out of order and it will fail, ultimately.

I agree with Dr. Kitt—this is great advice for living. But I also think it’s great advice for your business success. Here’s why.

1. I will be happy. If you’re not happy in your work, you will not make the money that you could be making. And it’s tough to make others happy when you’re unhappy. So the second two steps are really a function of this first one. If you’re happy in your work—or, better yet, if you’re one of the fortunate ones who truly loves what you do—the money will generally follow. “Bill, you’re oversimplifying,” you say, in your whiny little voice. Yes I am; but then, this is just a blog entry, not a book. But your point is taken. Despite the promise of Marsha Sinetar’s book, Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow, you still have to work hard, make smart decisions, take risks, and do all the other things that the underachievers collectively call “luck.” But your odds of success are much greater if you first love what you do. Take, for example, the Beatles. (“Them again?” Yes. Shut up.) They didn’t start playing music for the money, and they didn’t start playing music to make others happy. They started because it made them happy—they loved it. And the rest followed.

2. I will make some money. You altruists out there may be aghast that making money comes before making other people happy. But money is a resource, nothing more. It’s like the fuel in your car. You can have the best intentions in the world, but without the fuel, you’re not going anywhere. Money, as a resource, allows you to do two things:

  1. Take care of yourself. Money provides food, shelter, healthcare, education, and security. Without these, you’d be hard-pressed to help anybody else. Thomas Harris’ book I’m OK, You’re OK got the order right. Take care of yourself first, then you can take care of others.
  2. Take care of others. Sure, there are plenty of ways to make others happy that don’t require money. But money does allow you to buy a gift, share a vacation, take a friend to lunch, or fly somewhere for a visit. Basically money, as a resource, gives you options. And the more options you have, the more ways you can help others.

On a business level, money allows you to invest in the tools that will help you better serve your customers. It allows you to offer the benefits that will attract the most talented employees. It allows a buffer for when some of the aforementioned risks don’t pay off (in other words, it allows you the freedom to try new things). To put it bluntly: with money, your business can move forward; without it, your business will falter and die.

3. I will make other people happy. Ultimately, the function of virtually any business is to sell a service or a product. Now, why would a customer buy a service or a product? Because it, in some way, makes their life better—which, in turn, makes them happier. But in order to do all this, your company must be healthy, and that means it must be financially stable. And that’s why “I will make other people happy” is the third step—because it’s a function of the first two. Now, let’s be honest here. It’s not a requirement. There are people who will gladly stop at step two. As long as they’re happy and making money, they couldn’t care less about others. These people are called “sociopaths,” or, more colloquially, “jerks.” They just don’t get it, so let’s not concern ourselves with them. For the rest of us, it comes down to this: when you’re successful, you can help make others successful. The Beatles did what they loved, became successful, and made lots of money. Because they had money, they were in a position to discover and nurture other musicians—among them, James Taylor, who has enjoyed some modest success of his own.

The bottom line is that this is a process: do what you love (“I will be happy”), become successful at it (“I will make some money”), and share the wealth (“I will make other people happy”). Just be sure to get the order right!


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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