Let’s face it, life can be hectic at times. We have work, family, friends, trying to get to the gym, and an infinite number of things that can pull at us. It is easy to get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to contribute to others. Inherently, one of the most fundamental aspects of human life is the desire for fulfillment and a powerful component of this desire is contribution – adding value to the lives of others.
When we focus on adding value from the beginning, there will be rewards. These rewards might come in the form of money, opportunities, a deep sense of fulfillment, or a combination of all. Adding value shouldn’t be something we keep score of, it should be a way of life. Adding value ultimately should be more than our words and occasional actions, it should be who we are.
As we celebrate Veteran’s Day in The United States and Remembrance Day in Canada, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the power of adding value in business and in life. At this moment, soldiers all over the world, risk their lives on a daily basis so that we may enjoy our freedoms. Being able to start a business, share our opinions openly, or worship as we choose is a direct result of those who continue to add value to our lives that we may live in liberty.
As you read this, you might have not served your country or have someone in your family who has however that does not make you any less able to add value to others so that they might experience lives of empowered choice. The teacher who stays late, or comes in early, to work with a student who is behind even though it is outside their contract, is adding value. The person who takes the time to help a confused senior navigate a busy airport even though they are a fellow passenger and it is not their job, is adding value. The business person who goes out of their way to help a customer find a solution is adding value. These are everyday people who serve without a uniform or a rank.
In business, when we decide to lead with value, as opposed to leading with what we will get, it shifts the dialogue. Businesses who start with the question of how they can add value, tend to scale faster and ultimately become more profitable. In the startup world, the first question any investor will ask is, ‘what problem do you solve?’ If the company cannot answer this in one sentence, then they are often told to figure it out and come back. In marketing we call this ‘the value proposition.’ In other words, what value do you offer in exchange for solving your customers’ problem?
Apple, as an example, added value to its millions of customers by simplifying set-up. With an Apple ID, you can migrate your content from your old Apple device to your new one in a few easy steps. By starting with the question, ‘how do we simplify this so we can add value to our customers?’ they became a trillion-dollar company.
Contributing value isn’t something we should do when we want to make money, it is something we should start our conversations with and become a part of how we live our life. The motto in my roundtable mastermind, which includes people like billionaire, Glenn Stearns, Brandon Steiner, and others, is this – how can I add value to you?’ Started by NY Times Best Selling Author, Harvey Mackay, our group of 32 entrepreneurs is constantly figuring out creative ways to add value to one another and to the lives of others in general.
Glenn recently starred a show, Undercover Billionaire, which aired on Discovery. Glenn is a self-made billionaire with a life that many would envy. He was flown to Erie, Pennsylvania and given $100, an old pick-up truck, and a phone with no contacts. His challenge was to build a business from scratch that would be valued at over one million dollars at the end of ninety days. In addition to figuring out how to get food, a roof over his head, and putting gas in the truck, Glenn starts with the concept of how he will add value to the people of Erie.
Glenn eventually rallies locals around his cause even though they are unaware of his true identity. He builds a successful business and gifts it to those who believed in him. By starting with the concept of how he could add value and finding those who also ascribed to the concept of living a value adding life, Stearns managed to prove that when we start with the concept of value, we ultimately receive powerful rewards.
The journey for Stearns was not rosy. He slept in his truck in freezing temperatures many nights. He got quite sick. He was hungry. He was isolated from his family. Despite all of this, he kept value at the forefront.
In business, and life, we can take a page from Stearns’ example. There are 3 key ways in which we can add value to others and shift the paradigm of our lives and our results.
- Our Time – whether it is volunteering or carving out time to mentor someone, we can add value to people’s lives by being generous with our time. Recently, I finished coaching my son’s cross-country team. Some weeks, it was over ten hours of practices and meets. The kids on the team have learning differences and a few had some behavioral challenges. It wasn’t convenient, going from business meetings and a full work schedule to a hard stop at 2:45 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, to go and run a practice in 110-degree heat however it was deeply fulfilling.
By adding value to the kids’ lives, I added value to my own. There was no financial reward however I truly believe that many of the recent opportunities that have come my way are a direct result of me choosing to serve these kids.
- Our Belief – something as simple as genuinely telling someone that you believe in them can have profound effects. Bob Stone, Denzel Washington’s English teacher wrote a note to the admissions program at Fordham College where they had a prestigious drama program. It read, ‘if you don’t have the talent to nurture this young man, then don’t accept him.’ Washington read that letter many times over the years. He credit’s Stone’s belief in him with giving him the courage to pursue acting.
We can send handwritten notes of belief. We can openly praise people. We can call someone, or make a video for them, that expresses our belief. At the end of the day, every great person borrowed belief from someone.
- Our Gestures – adding value to people through gestures is powerful. We can send gifts, we can do something kind for someone, we can offer our services at a reduced or free rate, there are many ways in which our gestures can create value.
Recently, I returned home from a four-day business trip that was nonstop. I had a mixture of speaking and family events that left me with not enough sleep and a longing for my bed. Because value is something I live and not just do, I had spent the four-and-a-half-hour flight counselling the woman beside me. She, in turn, had some wonderful wisdom for me. I had hoped to sleep and work on the plane so I could arrive fresh however, I was exhausted.
My husband had fresh vegan lasagna in the process of cooking when I got home. The house was spotless. The kids had done their homework and there was nothing for me to do but take a short nap. My husband added tremendous value to me, and I firmly believe it is because I continue to add value to others.
Choosing to live a value focused life will yield rewards. Ask yourself how you can add more value today so that your tomorrows will be richer, and more fulfilling than possibly imagined.