When a single word brings you to a dead stop in your tracks, when a quote resonates so deeply with your thoughts that time gently slows down around you, when a book speaks to you so strongly you want to devour it in one big bite, take it as a good sign! It means you are really listening to yourself as you take in your life.
Thanks to Danielle LaPorte, that loudly brilliant and awe-inspiring woman over at White Hot Truth, that happened to me yesterday. I was listening to her blogcastFM interview, when she said the word: useful. To quote her more accurately:
Bold, underline, italics, capital letter useful.
I had to pause the podcast for now. She had given me too much to continue focusing. Finishing the podcast and the rest of her brilliant advice is for another day. For now, let’s focus on being useful.
Think about everything you do, say, write, deliver, promise, communicate and send out into your world.
Think about the interactions you have, the people you touch, the questions you answer, the information you deliver, the stuff – the great, authentic, unique and brilliant stuff – that you help create, is it useful? Are you being useful first and foremost?
Frankly, I can think of many other things I’d rather be called. Useful is not sexy or glamorous. Useful is practical and necessary. Useful is when you are doing something right, when you create something worthwhile, when what you create makes the life of someone else better on some tangible scale.
Useful is practical and necessary. Useful creates trust. Useful can turn a random person into a supporter and a fan into a client. Useful can be your whole marketing strategy for starts and I dare say you will not go wrong.
There is the obvious benefit. Useful can be the act of making life easier, less complicated, more efficient, less frustrating, and more fulfilling on many scales, large or small.
But being useful is more. It tells your reader, your follower, your customer, your client, your business partner, your child, or the stranger in the street who asked for directions, that you care, that you have good intent to help and that you are resourceful. Next time, they will consider returning that same attitude to someone else in their life and so the cycle will continue. The cycle of being useful.
how to be useful
It is in the small and simple stuff in life that we find the gold among the sand. A different approach, a thoughtful response, a helpful hand, a show of understanding, these things make the difference between useful and not so useful.
Can you tell me how to get to [insert a certain part of the city]?
“No idea, sorry!”
“No idea where that place is but I saw a subway map around the corner on the right. Hope that helps you.”
What is the meaning of this [insert any concept or idea]?
“Never heard of it. Sorry!”
“I haven’t heard of that but I bet you can find it on Wikipedia or you can do an advanced Google search and see what you get.”
Would you give me some feedback on my speech?
“Your speech was so great that I have nothing else to add.”
“Thank you for asking me to evaluate your speech. For your high caliber of speaking, I recommend continuing to use your strengths – your voice projection, your gestures, and your eye contact – and then work on polishing two more areas for more edge – walk with more confidence toward your audience and do not talk to your slides, talk to your audience.”
What do you do for a living?
“I am a therapist. That’s what I do for a living.”
“I listen to people’s hardships and pain, then find effective ways to help them turn things around, gain confidence and strength, and eventually heal.”
Or when people ask me how I manage to travel so much; I must be born this “lucky”, I aim to refrain from going on and on about my love of Paris and the Louvre, my pining for Hawaii or my adventures in Asia. Believe me, talking about my own travels thrills me to no end. I must have left a part of my soul in the places I have seen in this world and I long to refresh them in conversation. But how is that being useful?
Instead, I focus on how to encourage this person to take the leap of faith, to believe that travel in the 21st century is not an uncommon phenomenon and that the average person can indeed – truly and practically and with a sensible budget – see the world. So I focus on giving this person useful tips, practical advice, and help in breaking down the mental barriers to travel.
Specific is useful. Simple is useful. Honest is useful. Open communication is useful. Resources are useful. Relevant and applicable information is useful. Practical advice is useful. Making introductions in your network and opening doors for others is useful. Pointing someone to the right direction when you don’t know the answer, that’s useful.
what’s not so useful?
Vagueness in the name of originality. Obscurity in the name of confidentiality. Authenticity without substance. Long, complicated answers. Corporate jargon. Politics and bureaucracy. Writing a blog post without a purpose in mind. Sending a document when you could point to a single sentence that would save someone an hour. Going off tangent when someone is depending on your straight answer. Getting way too self-absorbed in your own musings to forget that you were telling a story for a reason. Answering a question without understanding the question. Asking a question because you didn’t listen to the speaker. Answering a question without thinking first. Doing a favor but doing so without respect or kindness. Buying a book only to put it on the shelf. Taking a class only to forget what you learned. Making resolutions you hardly follow. And much, much more.
Ban the useless in your life. Aim to be useful in every encounter, every interaction, every transaction, every connection, every single time and with every single person.
why to be useful
Useful builds bridges. Useful give you authority. Useful is fulfilling. Useful is cool. Useful is kind. Useful is human. Useful is a way to connect with other humans. Useful makes you approachable. Useful can build you a reputation no marketing strategy can top. Useful stands on its own platform with killer values and strong rewards on the horizon. Useful brings you good association. Useful brings you credibility.
From authority and credibility, trust is born, that sweetest, most imperative asset a relationship could ask for – and with trust, you go far, very far in life and you build, build much in the world of relationships, networking and connecting with other human beings. You pave your own path to success – and you will feel fantastic about it – all this for just being useful.