There's a quote by well-known author Donald Miller. He said it during a recent conference, but it is worth repeating here. In fact, it's downright life-changing.
He said: "Insecure people talk about themselves, confident people talk about others."
Here's what makes that so profound. For anyone trying to find any lasting happiness, success, or joy in life or in the workplace, it's incredibly important to set aside your own selfish ambitions. This is contrary to the popular view, which says you will find happiness when you find success. The opposite is true, and this even applies to the richest people in the world. You will only find success when you choose to be happy, and part of the process involves a total change in focus.
Let's redefine success, for starters. I like to view success and impact as interchangeable. True success is the pursuit of impact and influence. The legacy Bill Gates will leave behind is not that he was rich, but that he had an impact--both in terms of the computers we use, sure, but mostly because of the impact he has made as a humanitarian. I can imagine the conversation he had at one time with himself. He might have wondered: "Do I want to be rich or do I want to have impact?"
Maybe he was already rich at the time, and a big number in your bank account might be nice. It's better than living on the street, right? I don't think everyone should live in a tiny house. Yet, I've met incredibly happy poor people. Some of them are friends. They are not held by the vice-grip that comes with a bad definition of success.
Focusing on others helps you in countless ways. It means you will have character as a leader because you are not just selfish and self-serving. It means you care about your employees and what they are trying to accomplish. It helps your marriage. It helps you as a father or mother, an uncle or aunt. It feeds your soul because, in the end, we were designed to focus on how we can make an impact on others.
What's the opposite? An obsession with self means we are never satisfied. There's always one more check we need in the mail, one more pat on the back we crave, one more feeling we need to reach a level of happiness that is never quite attainable. It means we see other people as merely a means to an end, a way to help us find more achievement. Guess what? They know. They see through the ruse. It's all about you and it will always be all about you. It's a never-ending cycle of using other people to get what you want and yet never quite getting what you want.
There's a reason the quote is so profound. Miller is saying people can be insecure in their own skin. They need to keep feeding the beast, and the beast is insatiable. Confidence is the ability to perceive yourself as having your needs met. It is a view that says, no matter what happens, I know my identity is secure and doesn't need to be propped up by external forces. I don't need to self-focus because, in the end, I'm going to be fine. I'll find success. Don't worry about me.
When you start depending on others for your own success, you'll wind up missing it. There's no formula. In fact, those who think there is a formula reveal that they want someone else to provide the success for them. It won't happen. When you carve out your own path, you won't need anyone else to provide the success. You won't need to hyper-focus on your own needs. You won't need to ask questions like: "How can you help me attain success?" Or "What do you have to offer me that someone else doesn't have to offer?" Instead, you will have the confidence to say you and you alone are the one who can help others. You have things to say and insight to provide. You're not the needy one, so why not start helping others who are less fortunate?
Insecure people don't get that. They sit in a perpetual state of joylessness, waiting for someone to focus on their needs, their skills, or their predicament. The world is not waiting around waiting to solve your problems. Confidence is the belief that you have what it takes to change the world. "Anything you want your life to mean, it can mean," sings folk artist Ray LaMontagne on a recent album. True, dat.
What changes can you make today to gain that perspective? Ping me with your ideas.