Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful standup comedians of all time. 

Seinfeld parlayed his ability to find hilarity in the seemingly mundane and trivial occurrences of everyday life into a wildly popular sitcom that ran for nine seasons. In recent years, he's created and hosted the successful web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and has since made a triumphant return to the standup scene.

So, how has Seinfeld managed to stay relevant for decades?

Recently, I came across an interview in which the famous comedian shared some interesting insights on what he's learned about comedy through the years.

My favorite part was the following quote:

If you're doing it for them, you'll be fine. If you're doing it for you, that could be problematic at a certain point--because they'll know it. They'll feel it.

And they won't like it.

Pondering Seinfeld's words, I believe they hold value far beyond the entertainment industry. And we could sum up the key point in just nine words:

It is not about you. It's all about them.

The power of focusing on others

Think about your favorite boss, your closest colleagues, the best salesperson you ever met. What quality did they have in common?

I bet it's their ability to put others' interests ahead of their own.

On the surface, this may not make sense. How can someone succeed if they are always focused on the problems of others? 

But that's exactly why this works. No man is an island. The whole purpose of work is to provide value to others--and that's true whether you're a standup comedian or a barista at Starbucks. The more value you provide, the more others will value you.

Don't believe me? Ask Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. For years, he has credited Amazon's growth and long-term success on what he calls an "obsessive-compulsive focus on the customer."

In fact, right on Amazon's website you'll find that "customer obsession" is number one on its list of 14 leadership principles:

Customer Obsession: Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

It is not about you. It's all about them.

Additionally, focusing on others will make you a better:

  • Presenter, because you avoid speaking over your audience or boring them to death, and instead tailor your words to them, keeping them engaged.
  • Writer, because you find the balance between giving readers needed information without overwhelming them with unnecessary details.
  • Salesperson, because if a buyer feels you have their best interests at heart, they'll seek you out when it's time to buy. 
  • Manager, because you recognize the need to give encouragement and praise, while delivering corrective feedback in a way employees see as constructive rather than negative.
  • Leader, because you build trust with others when you make them feel that they're important to you. And people will always follow someone they trust.

As Seinfeld says, people can feel when you're out for yourself. It pushes others away.

But, in contrast, they can also sense when you're striving to put their interests first--and that leaves them with a good feeling. This results in their being more responsive and willing to help when you're in need.

So, if you truly want to increase your chances at success--at just about anything--you have to remember:

It is not about you. It's all about them.

Published on: Dec 20, 2018
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