Why Looking Out for Number One May be the Greatest Act of Kindness

One of the greatest principles of the timeless classic The Richest Man in Babylon, written in 1926 by George Clason, is found in its opening chapter – Pay Yourself First.   Quoting from the book, Clason says, “If you have not acquired more than a bare existence in the years since we were youths, it is because you have either failed to learn the laws that govern the building of wealth, or else you do not observe them.”  Another thing he said, as the chapter is actually titled, “A part of all you earn is yours to keep.”  He goes on to say, “It should not be less than a tenth,…and it can be as much as you can afford.”

Put this in perspective.  It is that time of year many find themselves wondering why the government picks our pockets and takes their taxes before we ever get a chance to use the funds.  The government is observing this law.  They pay themselves first, with your money.  They do it very well, deliberately, consistently and with severe penalties should we fail to comply.

This is exactly why we should also be vigilant and pay ourselves first.  If you have any intention of maximizing the power of compounded interest, make paying yourself first the most important financial decision of your life.  Decide that at least a tenth of all you earn is yours and your family ‘s to keep.

This is just one of the many important things you can do to look out for number one.

This is Random Acts of Kindness Week, so you might wonder why we would choose to write about taking care of number one.  We all know the importance of engaging in random acts of kindness – those selfless acts designed to help, support, cheer up or assist another person.  It is critically important to also realize, if we do not care for ourselves, we will not be able to serve others in the many roles we are called to…. In looking out for number one, we are engaging in an act of kindness designed to empower us all to deliver those selfless acts of caring concern for others.

You see, by deliberately engaging in acts which expand your thinking, improve your attitude, protect your family, add value to your company, create preference from your clients, build value into your personal wealth, form healthy relationships, maintain peace of mind, and sustain peak health and energy, we make ourselves useful to others.  Taking care of self, then, means we prepare ourselves to be of the greatest service to the common good of our families, our company and our friends.

For what we are sharing to be of value to you today, let’s get clear on the importance of selfish acts of kindness.  Being selfish can be quite the paradox.  When you focus on it, Selfishness carries a big, fat stigma.  However, just like the words fat and even focus, there are light and dark sides to every word.  It all just depends on association and context.  

For example, in your diet, some studies indicate there are both good fats and bad ….and even more news comes out almost daily that all fat has a purpose.  In the same way, throughout the day, you might have good focus and bad focus.  It is inaccurate to think all fat is bad and all focus is good.

Carrying that thinking further, you might have some good selfish and some bad selfish.  The key is to know how and when to be selfish and without guilt and without coming across as self absorbed.

So, let’s repeat why you need to be the good kind of selfish and look out for numero uno – the more time you take care of yourself, the more you are equipped to care for others.  It may sound strange intellectually, but if you don’t do it, no one else will, and you will not be able to serve those who depend on your efforts.

The question of whether this thinking is correct can be best answered with another question:  “Can you think of any rational reason not to make yourself and your life better, as long as you do that with integrity and do not harm anyone else?”  We all have but one life to live.  Why wouldn’t you nurture it and make it all it can be?  Why not create a life that is both joyful and fulfilling?

Is there anything wrong with being very intentional about what you are doing and why you are doing it?  Sure, it is noble to give top priority to others.  Even the reality of this can truly be that, by creating happiness in others, we create happiness in ourselves.  SELFISH!…but good selfish.

This is neither a message about being a sacrificial lamb or martyr nor one of becoming a selfish pig.  Instead, it is about building a right and healthy focus on creating great goals around fitness, wealth, in whatever form that takes for you, and happiness for yourself so that you might do great things for others.

Trying to please everyone while ignoring your own interests leads to burnout and resentment.  On the flip side, focusing on developing yourself does not preclude you from being civic minded, kind and charitable.  Nor does it keep you from being all in for your team and company.  Instead, good selfishness enables great selflessness.

The sad irony of complete self sacrifice is this:  often, those you profess to be serving could be worse off for your efforts.  If you spend some time routinely looking out for number one, you better prepare yourself to be more helpful to others.

Only when you try to pervert the laws of nature and make everyone else’s happiness your first responsibility do you run into trouble.  Sure, many of us are made happy by serving others.  It is important, too, to include yourself on that list of folks you are working to make happy.

Clearly, looking out for number one does no harm to others and, instead, puts you in a place where you can make the most meaningful contributions to those nearest you and, through the invisible hand of the marketplace, those you may never meet.

Even if all this were not true, others would still benefit from your success indirectly because, when you are self sufficient, self directed, self motivated, content and happy, you are not a burden to those around you.  This alone makes looking out for number one a noble pursuit.

This is precisely why your challenge today is this:

  1. Care for yourself
  2. Respect yourself
  3. Look out for number one:
  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Help someone 
  • Read a good book
  • Get out into nature
  • Optimize your environment
  • Engage in thoughtful conversation
  • Spend time with your friends 
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Make time to THINK

These selfish acts of kindness will rejuvenate and restore you.   Your performance will dramatically improve the moment you begin to make deposits in your mental, physical, emotional and intellectual bank accounts, and this right selfishness enables great selflessness.

At Cerca Talent+, we look out for you by exercising the disciplined, daily practice of finding the very best possible talent with whom you can develop the kind of career capital that will  lead your company to Exceed Expectations.  If you are a company looking to expand your team with professionals who are focused on delivering work which they love and who embrace the grind, please reach out to Scott Rivers at srivers@cercatalent.com.

Adapted from 100 Day Challenge

Gary Ryan Blair