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I find some great nuggets of wisdom in the strangest places. I was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, an American attorney who has written some excellent books on subjects relating to better living (in terms of happiness and self-awareness). Her depth of thinking is really intense, psychologically sound, yet profound (easy to ‘get’).

She was quoting a friend, and the quote expresses exactly what I have been trying to communicate when it comes to the Third Resolution and the idea of Service. The quote reads, “…you have to do that kind of work for yourself. If you do it for other people, you end up wanting to acknowledge it and be grateful and to give you credit. If you do it for yourself, you don’t expect other people to react in a particular way.”

His nibs Stephen Covey of 7 Habits fame underpinned that idea years before, when he promoted the idea of ‘anonymous service’, where the recipient of good deeds didn’t even know (and therefore could not acknowledge) your input.

They are both suggesting, if not daring to go the whole hog and so corrupt genuinely generous intent, that providing a service to others can be done with self-interest in mind. This idea is quite subtle, and if you wish you can delve deeper into the specifics , like asking the question “when does serving others become too self-serving?”, for example. “Does a selfish motive corrupt a genuinely provided, even anonymous service?”


In my book, The Three Resolutions, I address that very point. I shan’t reproduce the text here because I want you to research for yourself*, but in brief I defy you to suggest that anyone providing a service does so out of 100% selfless motives. (Particularly charity CEOs, whose selflessness is rewarded by 6-figure salaries. Think about how many ‘£3-per months’ go in their pockets.)

People serve because they want to. The want to because it makes them feel good. Thinking about Rubin’s friend, there comes a poor nexus when providing the service stops being generous and starts becoming selfish. The truth is that there is a continuum between totally selfless and totally selfish. The ideal is to acknowledge that you are unlikely to be at the ‘better’ extreme, but the closer you are to that end, the more noble the motive.

You have to acknowledge the pleasure you get from serving. That’s the foundation to the effort and the competence you put into that service. If you didn’t really care, you wouldn’t try. If it didn’t make you feel good you’d be stupid to be doing it because that emotion would, eventually, poison any service you provided.

Enjoy what you do, do what you enjoy. (Must trademark that.)

You’ll serve – and be – better because of that.

(*Buy the book)