The Duty of Contribution

Duty of ContributionWe are all driven to make a difference in this world. The tragedy is that so many of us have lost our way. We have become blind to our true mission by an obsession with busyness. We confuse money as a metric for quality of our contribution.

We may be sad or unfulfilled and not realize it is because we are not attempting to help the rest of the world. We may feel empty and try to fill that emptiness with stuff that has the opposite of the desired effect. It’s not a simple problem, nor is it easy to overcome, but at it’s root the problem is this:

You strive to be happy rather than striving to create happiness.

It is a problem of personal orientation in which people perceive themselves to be the recipient of the effects of  the world around them rather than a participant or contributing actor. We must act to make the world better.

The more complicated part in this all is that you must gravitate toward the area where you are most effective. This can take some time and great effort, but in that way you will find your Flow.

A focus on happiness—mottos and mantra that push you to maintain a positive attitude—will be problematic if you are not foremost insisting that you make significant and meaningful contributions to the world around you. It is our duty as human beings.

The reward for fulfilling that duty of contribution is peace of mind, enlightenment, and yes, happiness.

The 2 Keys to Social Savvy

Sao Paolo Handshake
Social savvy is the the art of getting buy-in, earning other people’s respect, and helping them to believe in you and your cause. It is not something that you can turn on and off when it suits you, nor is it a means to an end. It is simply the right way to behave. However, like all proper behavior it does have beneficial ramifications.

Exercising social savvy is important for everyone. People in authority will often make the mistake of assuming that they don’t need savvy because they call the shots. This is a foolish oversight. Authority can always be taken away, often is taken away, and can be done so in the blink of an eye. You want and need people to believe in you and be on your side.

And then there are the people who think they’ll never be able to have any real influence, so they don’t bother ever trying to make a difference. This, of course, is tragic. For one, because it denies the world their potentially significant contributions. But it is also tragic because it is self-victimizing. They excuse themselves from the duty of contribution by claiming that their power has been taken from them. Make no mistake, there are people in this world whose power truly has been taken from them due to inhumane and deplorable acts. Claiming you are oppressed because your boss is a jerk is unacceptable.

There is a third group, however, who don’t exercise savvy simply because they don’t know how. If you fall into this group, you’re in luck, because you’re about to find out how. There are just two keys to savvy and they are easy to remember:

1. Don’t Be a Jerk

Be sincere in intention and action. Don’t exaggerate situations or circumstances. Sure, tell a good story, but don’t blow things out of proportion.  There’s a difference.

It’s not all about you.  Listen to people. Don’t be so eager to have your say. Make the effort and create the opportunity for other people to say what they need to say.  Show them respect, be honest, and have empathy or sympathy for their situations.  If you’re talking to people with the hope and intent that they will somehow provide you an opportunity, you’re doing it wrong. You are there for them.

2. Don’t Be a Pushover

Communicate with clarity and conviction. And in order to speak with conviction, you must be knowledgable. If you are not knowledgable about the topic, ask questions and listen (see above). Know of where you speak.

When you do need to make somethings happen in order to make a significant and worthy contribution, do it with finesse.  That means knowing how to negotiate, persuade, and influence—topics covered in more detail in Self-leadership.


The Four Ds of Problem Solving

Whether you’re dealing with Earth shattering matters that need your response ASAP, or a nagging family problem, The 4 Ds of Problem Solving is the framework you need for getting to the solution.


  • DEFINE your problem. Thoroughly consider the situation or issue. Don’t assume you know what the problem really is. Drill down to the root cause by repeatedly asking yourself or stakeholders for explicit explanations as to why things are done the way they are. Then clearly articulate the problem by writing it out. Do NOT keep it in your head. Write it out.


  • DECIDE whether this is the most important and urgent problem for you to spend your energy on, and decide on what potential solutions will create the greatest positive impact. You don’t have to have the fully formed solution yet, just general notions of the best routes forward. Remember that the answers to problems are often found in numbers, which can also help keep things objective.


  • DESIGN the best possible solution to the problem. Be creative and novel, but make sure the solution and the design are also relevant. In problem solving, form must always serve function. Don’t get locked into old thought and common perceptions. Design like an innovator.


  • DEPLOY the solution. Make it happen by being prudent and savvy. Prudence dictates caution and consideration for others. Don’t let your excitement overpower you, causing you to rush in before you’re ready, sabotaging all you efforts. Savvy is how you get buy-in. Even if you seemingly hold all the cards, make sure you get other people to believe in your ideas and feel the excitement you feel about the solution. Savvy isn’t about selling people on an idea. Savvy is about synergy and forging mutual respect.

The Four Imperatives of Awareness

Leadership is a Means Not an End

True LeaderYou will find more true leaders—self-leaders—among teachers, nurses, and community organizers than you will among CEOs, politicians, and celebrities. It is the former who lead for the purpose of effecting positive change—change that has far-reaching and often immeasurable impact.  Their motive for leadership is not a hunger for power.  True leadership come from a desire to use your knowledge and ability in a way that has the greatest positive impact.  True leadership is about contributing to the greater good.  It is not self-serving.  Yes, it is necessary to empower yourself to lead, but that is a means to a far greater end.

We must not confuse leadership with power. Leaders always have some measure of power, rooted in their capacity to persuade, but many people with power are without leadership gifts. Their power derives from money, or from the capacity to inflict harm, or from control of some piece of institutional machinery, or from access to the media. A military dictator has power. The thug who sticks a gun in your ribs has power. Leadership is something else.

—John Gardner