According to the late self-help expert Earl Nightingale, our success in life is directly proportional to the number of people we serve and the quality of that service. While this life principle may seem to be so simple as to be-self-evident, it’s surprising the number of people who don’t seem to be unaware that it applies to them. But, like any natural law, it does apply, to everyone.
Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between your service and your compensation in life, and then explore some creative ways that you can enrich others — and yourself — by increasing your service to them.
Earl Nightingale was a fan of visual metaphors as a tool for communicating important principles and concepts. To illustrate the relationship between service and compensation, he used the image of an apothecary scale — the type of measuring device once used in pharmacies in the early part of the 20th century. It consisted of two bowls, hung from a horizontal arm. In one bowl, the pharmacist placed the medicine to be weighed. In the other bowl, he or she placed precisely calibrated metal weights, until the two sides of the scale were in balance — in other words, until the arm was perfectly horizontal.
What does an old pharmacy scale have to do with our comparison of success and service? Imagine that one of the bowls is marked “compensation” and the other is marked “service.” According to Nightingale, we only need to focus on the quality of the service we provide and the number of the people whom we serve — the service side of the scale. The compensation will follow, in proportion to the service we offer to others. As you sow, so shall you reap.
Many people, Nightingale complained, are too focused on increasing their compensation, without providing a commensurate increase in their service. Many people fall prey to an attitude of, “My employer isn’t paying me enough, so I won’t do any more for them.” Others may feel stuck on the same job, year after year, but never make a personal commitment to learn more about their job or profession, and therefore increase their ability to serve their employer, and therefore their value.
Many organizations offer credit for continuing education as part of their compensation packages, yet these benefits are often chronically underutilized by workers. In short, the vast majority of people who complain about the lack of pay, fulfillment and opportunity in their careers are victims not of their jobs, but of the attitudes they hold about their jobs. In other words, these people are focusing their attention on the wrong side of the scale.
In order to increase our compensation, you must develop creative ways to increase your service — and in so doing, set in motion a positive “boomerang effect” of increasing returns to yourself. For those who understand this principle, life is a grand adventure. These unique souls focus on the service side of the scale, and superior compensation follows in turn, in proportion to their service.
So how can you increase your service, and therefore your compensation? There are many creative ways to do this. One of the best strategies is to engage in continuous, ongoing learning in your field of study as well as other areas of interest to you. By developing a mindset of continuous learning, you are constantly feeding the raw material pile of your mind, which it can then draw upon when you’re brainstorming.
For example, one of my “occupational hobbies” has been business creativity and innovation. I read every book and article I can get my hands on, I subscribe to creativity newsletters and I purchase and use tools designed to help me develop more and better innovative ideas. The results in my career have been outstanding, and my expanded ability to think creatively has had a very positive influence on all areas of my life. It is also resulted in a launch of the InnovationTools Web site you are visiting right now!
People who engage in continuous learning naturally tend to outgrow their jobs over a period of time, often resulting in promotions or better job offers. Most often, people are promoted because they have outgrown their current position, not because they have repeated the same level of experience year after year.
Another way to increase your service is to cultivate what’s called an “insight outlook.” In other words, learn from your experiences and your ongoing education, but always with an eye toward how you can apply it or adapt it to your current situation. Companies are always in need of fresh ideas, insights and outlooks, and they will pay the people who provide them and who can solve problems creatively.
In addition, Earl Nightingale believed (and I agree) that people who concentrate on the service side of the scale find themselves profiting from all sorts of unique opportunities that others dismiss as “luck.”
To use another metaphor, opportunities and ideas don’t come into your life dressed as shiny gems or diamonds. Rather, they tend to appear like diamonds in the rough, or as opportunities dressed in work clothes. In other words, it’s easy to look right at a situation that contains a potential opportunity, and overlook it. On the other hand, if you know what you’re looking for, you can uncover these opportunities, often right under your own nose. You must then use your creative thinking and problem solving skills to hone them and shape them into the successes they will one day become.
As you can see, your success in life depends, in large part, on cultivating an attitude of service, and by providing value to others. If you want to be more successful, stop focusing on how much you’re being compensated today. Instead, using the strategies you’ve read about in this article, spend some time brainstorming new ways to increase your service to your employer, your family and the other people whom you serve in your life. I think you’ll be delighted by the results. After all, as you sow, so shall you reap!