Human beings are, by nature, selfish creatures. It’s a survival mechanism. We look out for ourselves, and we’re going to thrive and survive. For thousands of years, when the basic social structure consisted of a dozen or so people living in a tribe, selfishness was a driver. The strength of each individual translated to the strength of the tribe as a whole. When we settled into society and created this thing called civilization, the paradigm flip-flopped. In a society, it is the strength of the whole that determines the level to which individual members can thrive. We enter into what we call the Social Contract. We agree to give up certain freedoms, certain wants and desires, and in exchange we get to enjoy the benefits of living in society. For society to function, the collective vision comes before the individual vision. If the whole succeeds, everyone has the opportunity to succeed. If the whole doesn’t thrive, there’s no room for the individual to thrive. We can apply this same concept to business, to family dynamics, even to the ways in which we care for our bodies. And, maybe ironically, the more we engage in selfless behaviors, it not only benefits the people around us, it also creates the best outcomes for ourselves.
Let’s say you own a business. You provide a product or a service. What’s your primary driver? Is it just to make money? To enrich yourself? It’s fine if that’s the case, but understand that if money is the main driver, you probably won’t be capable of reaching your greatest potential. Of creating the highest possible outcome. Sure, you might have sacks of money piled up in the bank, but are you fulfilled? You might drive the best car and wear the nicest clothes, but do you feel a sense of purpose? If those things are important to you, then money and self-enrichment cannot be the driver. Acquiring mastery, creating fulfillment, requires having a purpose that is greater than yourself. If you design your product or service with the purpose of creating something that will make people’s lives better, then money, success, and all the nice things will come as a result of fulfilling that purpose. When acting from selflessness, purpose becomes your driver. When Steve Jobs started Apple, he had no idea he would become a multi-kajillionaire. His vision was to create a product that improved people’s lives. Whole truckloads of money followed, to be sure, but the products and the people he designed them for always came first. For Steve Jobs, vision was the why, not his own enrichment. The money was simply a byproduct.
Now, where does the vision come from in the first place? You might be thinking, duh Joey, the vision comes from the leader. Right? The leader creates the vision and then their team makes it happen. But I would say that doesn’t quite hit the mark. At least, not when we’re talking about great leaders. I would argue instead that a great leader recognizes a need. It’s satisfying that need that then becomes a vision. Great leaders do not drive for their vision, great leaders identify a need and develop a vision that will serve the need. The vision is not about themselves, it is about the need. A great leader then does nothing more than serve the vision to fulfillment in order to satisfy the need. The subtle distinction here is about creating for something larger than yourself. If you live for something greater than yourself then that is a vision that many others can own as theirs. If your team is showing up with a belief that they are simply there to serve your vision, they probably won’t stick around for long. But if your team sees a greater vision that they can opt into and take on as their own, then together you will have a collective that becomes unstoppable. Remember, as with society, when you invest in the collective vision, and the whole is thriving, then the collective can support the individual in ways the individual could never support themselves. Individuals are always going to struggle at times, but when there is a shared vision, the whole will continue to thrive and support those who are struggling. Because when the whole thrives, everyone thrives.
When we were nearing the end of the pandemic, with a weekend program approaching, I got Covid. Now, I’ve been on stage before with a 103 degree temperature, sweating, foggy brained, not knowing if I was going to make it to the end of the session. Because I had trainings to conduct and there was no one else to do it. Forty programs a year for twenty years, I’d never missed a program. Well, I missed one last year. Covid really kicked my ass and I was more sick than I’ve ever been in my life. But on top of being sick, I knew there was a hypervigilance around Covid and that I would be massacred, the whole organization would be massacred, if word got out that I had Covid and went and taught a bunch of people anyway. So what to do? I was struggling and unable to do my part. It was the collective that stepped in and continued to serve the individuals. One of our trainers, Mandy, led the program, the team went ahead and did their thing, and it wasn’t reliant on me. In fact, fulfilling the vision of IMS is becoming less and less reliant on me because the individuals on my team have come to own the vision for themselves.
Now, if you’re not the leader but rather a member of the collective team, the same concept of selflessness applies. You have to be willing to opt in for the vision and make it your own. Otherwise, you’re in the wrong place. The whole is only as strong as its weakest link. If you can’t manage yourself, you become a burden on the whole. I’m not talking about getting sick or hitting a rough patch, I’m talking about what happens when you are unwilling to opt in for something larger than yourself. If you’re just having a bad day, the collective will have your back. But if you’re not showing up because you can’t get past yourself, then you’re only going to drag the whole down with you. The collective collapses from the inside out.
We can bring this same idea into other aspects of our lives as well. Bringing selflessness to relationships is crucial to growing and nurturing those relationships. We’ve probably all had that friend or family member who’s only out for themselves. It doesn’t mean we stop loving them, but they sure as hell can be a pain in the ass. Because a relationship, by its very nature, involves the needs of more than one person. When you enter into a relationship, your vision for that relationship can’t be “I want, I want, I want”. Ask a parent about selflessness. They understand it at a visceral level. A parent is willing to literally give their own life if it means ensuring the survival of their children. That’s not to say you’re going to bring that level of selflessness to every relationship, but the idea is the same. What is the greater vision of a parent? To create an environment that allows their children to survive and to thrive, regardless of what they might want for themselves. In any relationship, the greater vision needs to be creating what it takes for the relationship to survive and to thrive. Within that framework, you can bring your own wants and needs, but it always needs to be in service of the greater vision. The larger vision of the relationship can’t happen by simply having your personal needs met. When you start living for something larger than yourself, you’re able to become the best version of yourself, and that’s who you want to bring to your relationships.
How about the area of health and vitality? It can be easy to let vanity drive our actions, particularly when it comes to body image. Just spend a few minutes on Instagram. But where does that really take us? If your vision for health and vitality is simply fitting into that new pair of jeans, you might succeed in slimming down, but then what? Is feeling good in those jeans going to bring you fulfillment? Are the heavens going to part and deliver you peace and serenity because your ass looks good in those pants? Take yourself out of the equation. Ask yourself, what is the larger purpose for me living in a state of health and vitality? Your children, your spouse or partner, your family, your friends, the people in your life who depend on you. The greater vision for health and body needs to be ensuring that you’re going to be around, that you’re going to be able to keep showing up for the people who love you. When you’re dreading yet another trip to the gym, what’s going to be better motivation? That you’re going to look good in a selfie? Or that you’re going to see your children graduate from college, you're going to walk your daughter down the aisle, you're going to spoil the shit out of your grandkids?
Selflessness is not innate. But it can be a powerful tool for creating fulfillment and achieving mastery. To nail selflessness we have to train and cultivate it. That’s exactly what you’ll find when you engage with our Power Series. We provide the tools, techniques, and strategies for discovering and naming a vision that goes beyond simple wants and needs. Because living for something larger than yourself is the path to an extraordinary life. Click HERE to learn more about the Power Series and sign up today!
Or, if you’ve already engaged in our Power Series and are looking to take your training to the next level, we further cultivate selflessness with our Train-the-Trainer Mastery Track in the IM Apprentice Program. The Apprentice Program is an experiential certification program that puts you on a path to becoming a certified IM Trainer. This program is designed for individuals who wish to further their own development while supporting others through the Power Series curriculum. Click HERE to explore our Apprentice Program.