I read a quote in a magazine the other day that came out of an interview with Julia Cameron. Creator of the Artist’s Way and all around creativity guru (though she, and I don’t like that term).
“When I started to be useful instead of brilliant, my career took off.” - Julia Cameron.
I read that quote and it immediately made sense. We focus so much of our energy on trying to sound smart, look smart, and gaining smarts through education, reading and the like. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the latter.
What it means to be useful:
To be of service
To help others
To give someone an advantage
To be useful means to leave the world a better place than you found it.
It doesn’t take a lot, nor does it need to be a grand gesture or deplete your bank account.
Being useful looks like passing a book along to someone, being a sounding board for business advice, carrying some groceries, grabbing the sugar off the top shelf, and opening a jar.
If you’re a parent of young children, you likely spend the better of your day being useful, improving the lives of your kids every single day. Your kids don’t need you to be brilliant. They need you to serve them.
Take this service mindset and apply it to the rest of your life. If you have an opportunity to be useful to someone, take it.
People will remember how you helped them before they remember some witty-one liner that left your mouth at a party.
How to be useful
I take this approach in my business. Having spent 13 years in the corporate world, moved a dozen times, started a business, worked with hundreds of clients, named a book, wrote a book, immigrated to the US, and solved one of my kid’s constant booger problem. That’s just a sampling of the things I know and can help someone with, and if you look at your knowledge, you know many things that can be helpful to someone, right now.
You can go out of your way to offer value with volunteering your time and knowledge and actively seek ways to be helpful. You can also just pay attention and stay open to being useful. When you put your phone away in your pocket and look up, you’ll see lots of opportunities to help—a lost person on a street corner, someone struggling to get their suitcase off the baggage claim conveyor, or a mom with her hands full and a fallen sippy cup.
Be useful online by joining Facebook and LinkedIn groups where your peers and some newcomers are hanging out. There will be boatloads of opportunities to help people with their perplexing questions and more. Try dedicating just 15 minutes a day to popping into these groups and answer some questions. Chances are, you have some questions you’d love a perspective on as well.
If you approach being useful with a give-more-than-you-take attitude and expect nothing in return, you’ll gain the most satisfaction.
Here are some things I wrote that you might find useful: