Don’t Ask: What is in it for me? Ask: What am I in it for?

The pursuit of self – interest is basic to our human nature. However, in our quest to achieve our personal goals it is usually better to begin each assignment by asking how its execution will add some value to us and benefit others as well, rather than asking if there are any direct material gains to be immediately derived from it personally.

The obvious questions most people ask are:

  • What is in it for me?
  • How much money is there to be made easily from it now?
  • Can I gain any instant self – promotion by it?
  • Will the crowd give me a standing ovation for doing it?

The danger is that chasing short – term gain and cheap popularity or using them as a motivator of our actions usually results in fleeting moments of glory only to be followed by months or years of stagnation.

Any profit obtained for its own sake and through selfish manipulation of everything possible never lasts. You may feel happy and satisfied today but you soon begin to realize that life goes far beyond your one – off victory.

On the other side is that individual who places the acquisition of wisdom,  additional skills, new cutting edge knowledge and better understanding well above immediate material gain any time they are faced with a new task.

This is the individual who asks:

  • What am I in it for?
  • How can I become a better human being by going through this?
  • In what ways can I use the experience as a means to a greater end?
  • Can I leverage the insights gained to develop myself further?
  • How can this empower me to impact the world for the better?
  • Will it arm me with the right tools to keep surprising the naysayers?

You will agree with me that the one who will thrive, not only for now but into the distant future, is the one who puts the goal of overall long – term personal development above instant gratification.

Had the great inventors such as Thomas Edison, Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton, The Wright Brothers, James Watt and Tim Berners – Lee been interested in only short – sighted personal comforts they wouldn’t have made the great scientific strides upon which the fantastic technological advancements of our day are built.

There is nothing wrong with living for our personal comforts but there’s something more profound in living for the greater good of humanity. And this is only possible when we stop asking, what is in it for me and begin to ask, what am I in it for?

Next time you experience a light – bulb moment and come up with a new idea or you’re faced with a task, I urge you to resist the temptation of avoiding it just because it has nothing material to offer you personally and immediately.

Always keep the bigger picture in focus. It is this that makes the difference between those who impact the world and never stop moving forward and those who make it big once – only for themselves – and thereafter live very miserable lives.


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