Two simple words that are so easy to forget. Every day when I wake up I try to remind myself of just that: Be useful.
It serves almost as some sort of mission or vision to guide me through the day. Every time I feel a little lost or don't remember what I set out to do, I go back to the basics. I just try to be useful.
Being useful is so simple. It not only helps other people but also myself. Being useful makes me happy, because whatever "usefulness" translates to in my current circumstance, it's never wasted time.
Sometimes I have a bad day. Sometimes it's hard to stay positive and I get lost in the world of negativity and criticism. Especially online, it's easy to be negative. Exactly then I usually try to remind myself to be useful, because being a negative asshole adds little value to anyone.
There are many ways you can be useful to other people and it's often more simple than you think. Here's where to start:
You are never too young to teach. Share knowledge with people who might know less. There is always someone who might appreciate your tips & tricks on whatever topic it might be.
You can help people by solving a problem they are having. It doesn't have to be a massive problem. It can be something small.
Sometimes when I work with other people I try to figure out what small problems they might have. And if I spot one where I feel like my expertise can help solve it in less than 15-30 minutes of my time, I will try to solve it.
I know this can be hard, because once you give someone the small finger to help, some might bite off your hand. But most of the time, it's worth it.
“I have found that all ugly things are made by those who strive to make something beautiful, and that all beautiful things are made by those who strive to make something useful.” ― Oscar Wilde
It's not your job? Do it anyway!
I've grown up as a jack of all trades. There are few times when I would say this is not part of my job description. Whatever needs to be fixed, I fix it. If I can fix a hardware problem, I just do it. If I can help set up an online payment flow, I will do it. If I can help designing an app, I will do this too.
I always love to work with people who know how to handle any situation that comes at them. And I'm not saying you should get lost in tiny tasks, but you should never be afraid doing things that are not part of your "official job description." It always annoys me when I work with people who clearly found a problem, but haven't even tried to solve it because it's "not their job."
I think being useful is a highly underestimated value that we rarely talk about. I love working with useful people because they ask the right questions rather than just trying to find the answers.
Useful people add value where there was no value before.
Useful people are interested in being useful and helping you the best way possible. Getting the job done or doing a task that you were assigned is one thing, but being useful is a completely different way of living and working.
Even if my to-do list is completely packed tomorrow, I try to focus on the tasks where I can be most useful to others. It makes me happy and allows me to sleep well at night.
And to be a little useful to you today, I'd like to share some book recommendations:
There is something called the "Blue Zones," and people who live in these blue zones seem to be the world's healthiest and long-living people on earth. The author tries to explore the secret behind these blue zones and how we can replicate their effect in other places around the world. It's an interesting concept & I enjoyed reading it.
I mentioned this one already in my list of favorite books. It's the unbelievable story & autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold has always been inspiring to me for what he's achieved in such a short life so far. Being on top of three different industries is what really stands out to me. He went from being an athlete (bodybuilding) to one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood before becoming Governor of California.
This book is by Tony Hsieh, one of the founders of Zappos. The founding story of Zappos is a little less exciting as Tony came from a background of wealth, but I still appreciated this book for the way Tony & Zappos build a company completely focused on customer experience.
And with that, I wish you a fantastic week. Be Useful.
**In the spirit of full disclosure, this article contains one or more affiliate links, which means that I may get a small commissions if you decide to purchase any of these books from Amazon. Of course, I only recommend products & services that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the founder of DESK, nice to meet you!