This past week I sent an e-mail to a friend. I thanked him for helping me over the years and being a significant factor in Becoming Minimalist’s success. He wrote back, “If I have helped you succeed, I am happy.” It was a short e-mail response, but it communicated an important truth: Our greatest successes in life are often found in helping others succeed. Our most lasting and fulfilling achievements are often earned by helping others fulfill theirs.
This is foreign thinking to a culture that often sees the world as one giant competition. In their mind, there is a set number of winners and losers. And if somebody else wins, that’s one less opportunity for me. But I have come to realize the mindset of competition is based on a faulty premise. It assumes there is a finite sized pie – that one more success in another’s life equals one less success in mine. But quite frankly, this thinking is incorrect.
There is wonderful freedom and grace in realizing the size of the pie is not finite – that in reality, the pie keeps growing. Another’s success does not mean I have less opportunity. In fact, another’s success can actually be my success if I had opportunity to enable, encourage, and promote them along the way!
Consider how helping another achieve success (however you/they decide to define it) results in significant benefits in a number of directions:
- The receiver has reached a far greater potential than they could have on their own.
- The world has been bettered and has been given a life-giving model to emulate.
- The giver is remembered fondly and is often publicly (and privately) thanked for their contribution.
- A stranger is likely to be the recipient of the original receiver “paying it forward.”
- And the cycle begins again.
Now, just to be clear, I am starting with an assumption that our greatest joys in life are rarely found in the relentless pursuit of selfish ambition – that selfish desires always leave us lacking and searching for more. Some may think that line of thinking is too unrealistic, far-fetched, or old-fashioned. They believe that in a dog-eat-dog-world if I’m not looking out for #1, nobody is. But that line of thinking is short-sighted.
Inherently, we know we have been designed to live for something greater than ourselves. Our contribution to this world has to be measured by something more meaningful than the size of our house or the neighborhood where it is located. And our lives are going to find lasting significance in how we choose to live them… and how we enable others to live theirs.
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