Becoming Useful

I’ve always told my wife that I don’t have much career ambition outside of simply helping others find meaningful ways to spend their time. This is because I’m on a quest to do the exact same thing.

I, like you, want to be useful.

I want to do meaningful work, work that matters, work that helps others get “unstuck” from where they currently are so that they can get to where they need to be.

The great thing is that this angle and approach is so general in nature that it can apply to a new graduate or someone who is just starting their career as well as someone who’s been around for a time as well.

You see, there will always be a market, a job opening, an opportunity for you if you develop the skills necessary to identify someone else’s pain point and work toward solving it for them.

This might be the singular best piece of career advice that I can think of and that I can probably give: Solve other people’s problems and you’ll always find worthwhile work to be done.

This is also the advice that my father gave to me earlier in my career, so, I can’t take credit for it in the slightest. He told me that it should be my goal, every single day, to make the lives of those that I serve easier, not harder, and I should ask often this question:

How can I serve you?

Essentially, I had to make it my goal to figure out how I could make this person’s life tangibly better than what it was the day before. Once, he even added “This also works as a software programmer… I’m sure of it.” which made me laugh a bit.

I started to use this when I first started working at Dell, Inc., which was back in the early 2000’s. I found the results to be magical because I never knew what their answer would actually be and many times the conversation would wildly veer off into other neat directions – it’s as if offering myself made them reflexively want to offer themselves to me in return.

Who knew that this little question could not only answer so many questions and provide so much direction for my life; it could also solve some of the more fundamental, existential annoyances that we wrestle with, like: “Why am I here?” and “What should I do with myself?

I’m still working on becoming useful.