Inc. Magazine: The Secret to Becoming Important: How to Offer More Value in Business and Life
A graduating senior from my alma mater sent me a cold email: "I am very interested in hearing about how you got to where you are today. Do you have any time for a coffee next week?"
When we met, he explained that while he studied business for four years at USC, he wanted to learn as much as he could about the business world from people in it before leaving school. Per his request, I walked him through my career, almost putting myself to sleep in the process, before telling him that the real value I could provide is not my biography, but unfettered advice. I pride myself on my candor, I explained, and could tell him some of the things I wish I knew when I was graduating from USC, but had to learn over time.
Givers vs. Takers
I conveyed that from my perspective, there are two kinds of people in the world -- givers and takers. Most people are takers. Taking is much easier than giving -- it is more natural and comfortable and requires far less effort. Giving can be hard. After all, you are sacrificing time and resources to help someone else.
If your act is intended to benefit you, you are not giving. With that said, there is nothing more beneficial to you than the act of giving. In fact, if you can give with such frequency that giving becomes intuitive, you are destined to become important to others, and in turn, successful.
Audit Your Relationships
Consider all of the people in your life and ask yourself if they are givers or takers. What you will likely realize is that the people who you choose to spend time with, to associate with and to be around are givers, and the people in your life who are takers are likely there out of obligation. They may be family members or old friends who you feel a sense of loyalty to, and that connection is the only reason why they remain an active part of your life.
The new relationships you seek to develop -- whether they involve friendship, dating or business -- are naturally going to be with people who are givers. Why would you want to enter into a new relationship with a taker when they would be sucking value from you?
Look in the Mirror
It is important to ask yourself, "How do I want others to perceive me -- as a giver or a taker?" If you are a taker, your value will be limited strictly to the skill set you offer and you will be useful to others only to the extent that they need or want your specific skill. If you are a giver, everyone will want you in their life, regardless of who they are and who you are, because you can help them.
Would you rather be Tom Hagen, Robert Duvall's character in The Godfather who becomes an invaluable member of the Corleone family because he solves other people's problems, or Fredo?
Anyone Can Be a Giver
A very common misconception is that not all people have the wherewithal to be givers. For example, students such as the one I met with believe that they have little to offer to "important" people like senior executives or successful entrepreneurs. They appreciate the importance of giving and wish they could be givers, but ask, "What can I really give that is of value to those who are already so much further along than I am?" The answer is simple: Listen closely, and if need be, ask questions to help probe, and you will know.
Every person in the world has needs and wants, and they are often very different than what you think they are. A few months have passed since I sat down with the graduating senior and it is unclear which one of us benefited more from our meeting. Yes, I told him how I got to where I am today, connected him to a friend of mine who runs the kind of company he expressed interest in working for, and most importantly, taught him the secret to becoming important.
But he listened -- to my advice and to me: He introduced me to one of his closest friends, who became one of my favorite interns this summer. If you adopt the mindset of a giver, you will realize that regardless of where you are in your life, there is a good chance you can help if you actively try.
Adam Mendler is CEO of The Veloz Group and founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions.