Two days ago, I received an email from my favorite "adopted professor," Dr. Srikumar Rao. I met Dr. Rao a couple of years ago when he called after reading my Open letter to CXOs
blog post. As soon as I heard his voice, I relaxed and smiled, since
he exuded joy even over the phone. We talked for over an hour, and I
learned that this open, humble wonderful soul taught creativity to MBA
students at Columbia and London business schools. Despite being
incredibly intelligent, he didn’t have any of the academic stuffiness
that plagues many other professors. He concluded the call asking what
he could do to help me. I was floored and humbled that he would take
so much of his time to connect with a blogging Mom in Mesa, Arizona,
and was inspired by his generosity of spirit.
Dr. Rao told me that he recently did a presentation for Google, and
shared the YouTube link. Last night, after the kids were tucked in
bed, I watched his presentation and was struck by something he said:
"Your ‘me-centered universe creates the stress in your life. To feel better, do things for the benefit of the greater good."
Using examples drawn from his book Are you ready to succeed? Unconventional strategies for achieving personal mastery in business and in life Dr. Rao stated:
"You live in a me-centered universe. We all do. Each
of us evaluates events, near and distant, in terms of their impact on
"me." If your spouse gets a great job offer, you think about how this
will affect your relationship. When your daughter comes home with a
tattoo and a nose ring, you think abut how your friends will react and
what they will think about your parenting. When you read about unrest
in the Middle East, among other things, you worry about the impact of
oil prices and how much more you will have to pay for gas. You hear
about a car accident on the radio and think in terms of how delayed you
will be by the traffic jam.
Even your your altruistic inclinations are frequently tainted. You
want to "do good in the world" and to "give back" but it is important
to you that you also be recognized for your actions. You want your
jokes to be laughed at, your contributions to be acknowledged, and your
advice to be solicited and acted upon. It is as if you walk through
life with an invisible sign on your forehead: "This is ME. Pay
attention. I am important."
This "me-centered" perspective is what causes so
much suffering, since the universe rarely gives you exactly what you
want when you demand it.
Instead, try focusing on the greater good for in some typically "sticky" areas of your life:
Who doesn’t stress about work, parenting or even cooking? My Mom
and I laugh at how we both used to get totally obsessed with our dinner
party menus. If the chicken was rubbery or the vegetables tinged with
gray, we would seethe with embarrassment in the kitchen, certain that
everyone was quietly tossing their food to the cat under the table.
After awhile, we realized how ridiculous we were being and toned down
Focus on the greater good: What will make your dinner
guests feel good? Great music, good company, lots of love and laughter
is much more important than perfect food.
Recently, I shared a URL with a friend of a new fantastic book and website called The first 30 days
(more detailed review on my blog to come). Crestfallen, she wrote
back: "I can’t believe it — she just created the very thing that I was
thinking of doing!" I have experienced the same thing myself in other
situations, and it flares up ugly parts of my ego.
Focus on the greater good: What does my target audience
crave? What information or services do they need? If I am not the
only one providing this information to my audience, that is to their benefit.
And if someone creates a book or program or service that is better than
mine, instead of fighting it, I should create something unique and
different that will still serve their needs. Competition stimulates
excellence when we focus on solving our customer’s problems.
Two months ago I wrote about the scary state of the world
and how it can make us feel unstable and uneasy, especially
financially. The more we obsess about the lack of jobs and resources,
the more stuck we become.
Focus on the greater good: How can I help someone else feel
less financial strain? How can I do something in my business that will
lead to more financial stability for my customers, and a more solid
economy? What can I give away that will support someone else?
Of all the obvious areas in which to apply the "greater good,"
loneliness is in the center! If you are feeling disconnected, alone,
unappreciated or unloved, it is easy to get trapped in your own web of
woes and spiral down in depression. My favorite example of this was
when I called a good friend one evening and asked her what she was
doing. "I am sitting here in the dark, alone, drinking a glass of wine
and listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing "Someday he’ll come along (the man I love)"
Although it was incredibly inappropriate, I started giggling, since the
image was so absurd. Pretty soon, we were both roaring with laughter
since obviously, the "man she loved" was NOT going to come knocking on
her door with that strategy. We now call it "The Ella Moment."
Focus on the greater good: Get your hiney out the door and
into the heart of someone who needs you. I am not talking about lonely
souls at the local bar, but rather someone who will appreciate your
love at the highest level. Go hug drug addicted babies at the hospital
(they actually have great needs for volunteers at some facilities).
Visit an elder home and sit under an oak tree and listen to a grandma
or grandpa tell stories for a few hours. Volunteer at a youth program
and help a youngster with homework. The joy you will feel at
connecting with someone else who needs you will feel so great you will
radiate with love. And then, who knows, on the subway home, maybe he
will come along, the man you love.
I want to stress that focusing on the greater good does not mean
serving others at the exclusion of yourself. The power in helping
others succeed, as Dr. Rao says, is that "the universe naturally
organizes itself to help you."
Try it! Let me know how it works out.
View Dr. Rao’s entire talk on YouTube at this link.
He also just came out with an audio version of his personal mastery program here.
And if you enjoyed his talk, let him know! I would love for him to
feel the same support and joy that he so generously shares with others.
What are your thoughts on getting unstuck by focusing on the greater good?
I haven’t been able to watch the entire video yet, but I love this topic and I know it drives at the heart of what you are doing.
I am really moved by Dr. Rao’s style: he is terribly funny, and his mission.
I come away with so much good stuff from your blog. You are my blogging idol!
Thank you for this video link for Dr. Rao. I’d like to see more video recommendations in your blog. Thank you.
How cool to take a class on creativity. One of the problems of living in Marrakech is that, despite being surrounded by creative people, there is very little adult education that will help people to progress. It’s one of the things I miss most about the US.
Thank you some much Pam! Great start to the morning. This article describes to a tee, how my mother lives her life. Whenever, me or my sister gets down about something, her first comment is….”Do something for someone else!” Sometimes, this is the last thing I want to hear. I have even gotten mad at her when she’s said this. But as I get older (27), I realize that this is the best answer. If you can get over it and put your energy towards something greater, life turns around.
oops! My mistake – I didn’t realize until I watched the video that I’d mistaken Dr. Rao for another Dr. Rao. It is a great talk, though; I’ve ordered his mastery program and can’t wait to get it!
Thanks for this, Pam. I met Huggy Rao at a conference on creative engagement at Stanford earlier this year and was so impressed with him. He is indeed very smart and very sweet.
Thank-you so much Pam. This morning I was wallowing in self-pity, trying to sleep away the thought that I’ll never find a job, or more to the point, THE job. I’m pretty sure the universe placed Dr. Rao into my morning. Blessings to you.
Wow, fabulous talk, and just what I needed to hear this morning. Thanks for the article and the link.
It’s funny how we need to keep learning some of these lessons over and over again. (at least that’s my reality).
Hmm… I can strangely relate to this one …
I’m asking myself all those tough questions while TIS takes a hiatus, and the answers ARE coming — and they all have that “feel” of truth about them. I think it’s going to lead to a better, and more focused, site. I also think it’s leading to a happier “me.” The key word in the phrase “service professional” is SERVICE.
A while ago, there was a book published about spiritual approaches to the practice of law — not religious, per se — but spiritual, with its emphasis on compassion and service to others. It made a real impact on me, and when I launched my practice I had every intention of focusing my efforts thus. Of course, as with most good intentions, it got a little lost and fuzzily out of focus there for awhile, but thanks to a very wise woman (ahem!) I’m getting it all back slowly but surely.
Thanks for this, Pam!