This article was originally written for and published on www.oohbother.com. It has since been revised.
You don’t care about anyone but yourself.
And neither do I. (To clarify, I don’t care about anyone but myself, not yourself.)
This is a recipe for disaster, and it was true at one point, until I learned a few things the hard way. Until I was humbled by a difficult and important conversation.
When I first quit Love and Theft (that’s right, I was once a D-list celebrity), I was in a tailspin. Not because I had done the wrong thing–I hadn’t–but because I was in a vortex of fear. My plans slowly and ever so surely didn’t pan out. I had made a few barely noticeable waves in the music industry in Nashville, and I thought I might be able to parlay what I had been doing into a publishing deal or something similar. I hoped to keep writing and producing and such to pay the bills, and that would allow me to work on a new rock and roll band while I pampered my new wife and brought a tiny, screaming life into the world.
Guess what? WRONG!
As time passed and I lived month after month on savings I had hoped not to burn through (I burned through them), the fear grew, the scrambling panic of lost-ness began to cloud my mind with self-preservation and selfishness.
Finally, my brother-in-law, Aaron, sat me down for a little chat.
“You’re selfish,” he said. Okay, that’s not verbatim, but that was the important truth of the conversation, and I’m thankful that he cared about me enough to bring it to my attention.
He was right. That fear had turned me into the grubbiest, most desperate person who was ever unenjoyable to be around. Every person I met, I couldn’t wait to hear how they could help me. “What’s that? Your dad’s friend’s dog’s original owner is the president of a publishing company? You don’t say!” or “Why yes, I was in Love and Theft. You’re working with indie rock bands? That’s perfect!”
It was disgusting. It was pathetic. It was lame. This full on obsession with myself and my concerns was far from inconspicuous.
Now, Aaron is the personified opposite of that mindset, and he taught me a lot in that one lunch at Belcourt Taps.
He helped me to re-orient myself away from, well, myself. Here’s what I learned:
How I View Other People
First, I had to see other people as the same as me. These people are hungry to achieve, they are passionate about something, they are afraid of something. They are just as deserving as I am of opportunity. They have family they love, enemies they misunderstand, failures they regret. My desire, my life, is not more important than theirs, and believing that it is will most assuredly cause me to lose out on valuable and enriching relationships, not to mention opportunities. Cut yourself off from people, cut yourself off from opportunity.
How I React to Other People
Next, my first thought had to be replaced with genuine interest in who these people are, what it is they want, and even how I might be able to help them. What a way to approach someone! Tell me, what is more compelling?
“Hi, I’m Brian. Yea I was in a country band and we had one hit, so you should like me! How might you be able to help me achieve my goals so I don’t go broke or die in anonymity? Please please please? Gimme gimme gimme I neeeed I neeeed!”
“Hi, I’m Brian, great to meet you! What is it you do? What are you hoping to accomplish down the line? Really? I know someone you’ve got to meet! I’m sure they can help you move toward that goal!”
Aaron is the king of that: helping and connecting people for absolutely no personal gain, because he loves them from the start. In fact, he’s so selfless that if you want to know about Aaron you’ve got to pry it out of him—he’ll be too busy talking to you about you. Which brings me to this…
How I Choose to Love People
Lastly, you’ve got to love people. I look at those who have impacted me: writers, artists, teachers, coaches and so on. What enabled them to impact me so effectively? They gave. They gave of themselves, which is love in the form of action.
This should be the basis of all that we do. If someone writes a blog post hoping to get followers and sell advertising and get rich, who wants any part of that? I know I don’t. But if they feel compelled to write something because they genuinely love the people reading it, those who read it will be impacted and their lives will be enriched, and that is exactly the type of material that people want to share.
The interesting reality is that in order to have success in what you’re doing, those ambitions can’t come before everything else. The most effective thing is to genuinely care about others, and that will result in opportunity.
Few things will separate you from the herd like genuine selflessness. So let respect for others, interest in others, and genuine love color your interactions, and people will be drawn to you without you having to beg for their attention.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. How has selfishness caused you to miss out? How has selflessness opened up doors for you? Leave us a comment!