We’ve all heard that we should “start with why.” We’ve been told to pinpoint a compelling reason to do something—that a big-enough reason will move us forward—but often the search for a reason is what keeps us stuck. The truth is that the only good reason to do anything is because you want to. No other reason is necessary. Listen to this episode and find out why.
Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you get more bank with less bulk. Today’s episode is for every listener who’s having trouble getting started on something, because you’re searching for sufficient justification to do the thing that you really want to do. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth and I’m happy you’re here because we can burn so much time and energy trying to find a big-enough reason to move forward on what we want, that we can stay stuck forever. So today we’re going to talk about the only reason you’ll ever need, so you can stop spinning and get going with your important work in the world and creating everything that you want for yourself and your family.
I’ve been thinking about reasons a lot this week because many of you have been telling me that you’re holding off on your businesses or some other goal while you search for a big-enough “why.” We’ve all heard the rumor that we’re supposed to start with “why.” We’ve heard that the reason had better be monumental or we will lose steam or never get going. This concept has pervaded our collective consciousness right now. There are best-selling books and viral Ted Talks on the subject of “starting with why.”
But what I see is the opposite. Those of us with big reasons—monumental reasons–for doing something often do nothing. Consider diabetes. Many who suffer from this disease will lose their eyesight, and their feet, even their lives, before they’ll give up sugar. Those are some pretty big “whys” that they have, but they’re not big enough.
So in my mind, “why,” by itself, doesn’t get us there. A big reason for this is that when we search for why, we’re searching for justification, but “why” doesn’t actually justify anything. I remember a boyfriend I had when I was younger. I knew he was cheating on me, but I didn’t feel justified in breaking up with him until I could prove it. So I enlisted my girlfriends and we embarked on protracted, middle-of-the-night missions to catch him in the act. And eventually we did, and then what happened? I still didn’t feel justified. Even though he’d been caught red-handed, he still had a problem with me breaking up with him. I was still “ruining his life.” So I didn’t feel justified. I just felt guilty.
Why did I feel guilty? Because of my thoughts. Guilt, like all emotions, comes from what we’re thinking about a situation. What was I thinking? I was thinking guilt-inspiring thoughts. I was thinking that I was not allowed to do something for my own pleasure or my own benefit if it would hurt another person. I was thinking that I couldn’t be that “selfish.”
Now I know better. Now I know that the only reason you need for doing something is because you want to. The only reason you need to stop doing something is that you no longer want to.
I also know that this idea isn’t going to sit well with many of us. The idea of doing what we want to do, and stopping the things we don’t want to do, for the sole reason that it’s what we want or don’t want, is a huge sticking point for those of us who are stuck. And the main reason it’s a big sticking point is that “I want to” is, in our minds, the essence of selfishness. and we’ve been socialized against selfishness.
And what I’d like to offer to you today is that this socialization against selfishness doesn’t serve anyone. So let’s take a look at selfishness. The working definition that most of us use for selfishness is doing what we want, when someone else doesn’t want that. We think that the best way to proceed is to ignore our own wants in an effort to serve something else, or someone else.
And this leads to perverse results that serve no one. I know parents who have children they don’t want because they don’t want to be selfish. I know would-be parents who don’t have children that they desperately want because they don’t want to be selfish.
So here’s what I’d like you to think about: when, in the history of the world, has doing something you absolutely didn’t want to do led to terrific service on your part? Has there ever been something in front of you that you desperately didn’t want to do, but you did a bang-up job at it? My guess is no.
It’s where we’re doing the exact thing that we want to do that we perform the best. So here’s what I’d like you to notice about selfishness—when we are acting for our own pleasure, or our own profit, or both–is when we’re the most motivated. It’s when we work longer, we work harder, and we work better. It’s where we defy conventional wisdom and create art. The greatest artists in history pursued their work in utter disregard of “their” opinions and “their” thoughts and solely for the artist’s own pleasure—to satisfy something internal that was driving them—and that’s what made their masterpieces notable and valuable. The same thing happens in commerce. When someone breaks out and ignores group-think and creates something amazing, they do so for their own pleasure and their own profit. Selfishness–—in commerce, in our personal lives, in everything we do–is where we stretch. It’s where we perform at the highest level. Selfishness is where we serve the most, and it’s where we serve the best.
If this seems tough to take, let’s look at some examples. We often think that being a good parent is all about the child and not about the parent’s pleasure. But imagine a mother who does everything in service of her child and finds no pleasure in it. She’s dour-faced, plodding along out of obligation and pure selflessness—there’s nothing in it for her at all. Is this the woman you’d want for a mother? I certainly wouldn’t. The best mothers, and the best fathers, too, are those who find joy in parenting for their own reasons. Their “selfishness” of pursing parenting for their own pleasure leads to serving their children better, and they in turn become better parents to their children.
Selfishness leading to service is true in commerce, too. I went to law school for my own reasons—for my own profit and my own pleasure–so getting a law degree was an inherently selfish act. But the lawyers who love practicing law make the best lawyers. They’re the lawyers who serve the best. Would you want a lawyer who hates being a lawyer? I wouldn’t. I don’t think you would want that either.
Selfishness leading to service is also true in our community efforts. Right now I’m working on a case where the owner of a large parcel of land in my neighborhood is trying to ramrod some high-density housing past the county planning commission and it’s going to put our community water supply at risk. What’s happening is legally complicated enough that it would take a legal education to see why it’s improper, so this situation required a lawyer, and in the absence of another one, I stepped up to look into it. And in this respect, what I’m doing is a service to the people in this community. Or I guess I should say it will be a service if I win.
But make no mistake here. I’m pursuing this case because I want to. I’m doing this partially for my own profit–I drink from the wells that are at risk from this high-density housing project, and my house, like all of the neighbors’ houses, is worth nothing if we don’t have clean water in the wells that serve our homes. And I’m also doing this for my own pleasure. I’ve never had so much fun in my life. And the reason I’m having fun working on this case is because what’s happening in this case is sort of unbelievable—you couldn’t make it up if you tried–and unraveling it all is like a game to me. So I want to do this work. In this respect, I’m being selfish. But I’m also serving others at the same time, and this isn’t an accident.
Unless we’re sociopaths, we are hard-wired to want to do the things that will serve others. Those of us who weren’t inclined to serve others didn’t protect our children or get along with our tribe members, so we were weeded out of the gene pool.
And this is great news for all of us. It means that we can follow the thing we want to do, just because we want to do it, and trust that it’s going to be good for everyone around us, too. For example, if you don’t want children, do everyone a service and don’t have them. If you do want children, do everyone a service and have them and take care of them like no one else would, and trust that they’ll more than make up for the space they’re taking up on the planet.
If you want to pursue something in your career or business, trust that, too. When you pursue what you want for your own profit and your own pleasure, that’s where you’ll serve the most, and you’ll serve the best. I’m living this right now. There was no legitimate reason for me to start this podcast. I have a great business working with hedge fund managers. But I felt called to do it, so I did it. I wanted to do it for no good reason, and now you listeners are contacting me and getting help with what’s weighing you down. You’re getting your businesses going, and you’re making them more profitable, and you’re getting out from under all of the burdens that are sucking the joy out of your lives. You’re feeling better and you’re having more fun and getting where you’re going. And none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been a little selfish. If I hadn’t said, “You know, there’s no good reason for me to start a Rich & Thin podcast, but I’m going to do it anyway. Just because I want to.”
So what I have for you this week is pursue what you want, just because you want to. People who are scared about a change, like my boyfriend who didn’t really want to be with me but who didn’t want to break up with me either… Those people will be served when you get brave enough to do the right thing for everyone. Unless you’re a sociopath, and we don’t have any of those for listeners, doing what you want is always where you will serve the most, and it’s where you’ll serve the best.
Service is key for those of us who want to create wealth, because service is where money comes from. I’ve known this since I was a waitress in undergraduate school, and I’ve seen this work in the lives and businesses of so many of my clients, hedge fund managers and others. If you get really quiet, and start listening to that whisper of a want deep inside of you, and allow yourself to pursue it just because you want to, with no other justification, what you’ll find is that you’ll begin operating within your zone of genius, doing something that you’re passionate about, in a way that’s unique to you, that no one else could duplicate. This will happen because you’ll be doing the thing that matters to you the most, and whenever you do this, you create value in the world that will help other people and they will happily pay you for it.
If that appeals to you, now imagine this: What if you did only the things that you want to do? Who would you be? What would your life look like? What would your business look like? And your body? How unstoppable could you become if you became truly selfish and only pursued what you cared about? My guess is that the world would benefit. That’s the crazy thing about selfishness—because we’re hard-wired to want to serve others, when we do the things we really want to do, solely because we want to do them, that leads to the greatest service of humankind.
So don’t let selfishness stop you. Embrace it. Do something—not just something, do everything— just because you want to, and you’ll be amazed at how other people around you will notice what you’re doing and how well they’ll receive it and how much they’ll be helped by it. This, my friends, is why capitalism still works better than anything else ever invented, and it’s where you’ll find your wealth.
I want nothing less for you. I also want to thank you for joining me this week. I look forward to connecting with you next time.