Friday, May 29, 2015

Why People Give More and Why They Don't- A Love Story

I Searched for a Decade for an Answer to This Question

As a Ranger and Combat Engineer Officer, I learned how to make values-based decisions every day…even when it was really hard…especially when it was really hard.  In that culture, success absolutely depended on relationships and trust.

Later, I learned that success in the corporate culture was often limited by the desires of the individual and for years my frustration with that attitude drove me to seek a solution. If I had a dollar for every relationship I messed up trying different things...

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was constantly asking this question, "Why were the soldiers I served with so much more willing to give such tremendous effort and serve so selflessly when so many of my corporate colleagues who were making so much more money were just putting in their time?"

The Answer Finally Came to Me In a Book

In 2012, I read a story in the book, They Fought for Each Other, by Kelly Kennedy, and I was soon able to put all of the pieces of the values-based system that had been floating around in my head for years. It was a true story about  a soldier named Ross McGinnis who saved the lives of his friends by purposefully blocking them from the blast of a grenade that was inside their vehicle. I later analyzed a part of McGinniss' story in my own book as an example of someone who finds inspired values-driven success.

Kennedy is so genuine in telling the stories of McGinness and his brothers in Charlie company as they help each other live through a series of devastating experiences that I'll leave the details to hear. I highly recommend her book. If we want to grow as human beings, we need to read stories like this one, stories about real human beings that break our hearts while reminding us of the spirit that drives people to do incredible things.

Every soldier wonders if they'll do what it takes to do what their friends need them to do when it matter most…especially when it’s really hard.

If You're Struggling With Following Me So Far, Here's Why

People have asked me many times, “How can such a tragic story possibly illustrate the real meaning of success? He was killed! Nobody wants that!” And, they wonder, "What does a story about soldiers have to do with success in business, anyway?"

I get it. It doesn't appear to be a very good example. But appearances can be deceiving.

So, I reply, "Think. What words would you use to describe Ross’ actions?"

They invariably use words like Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage (These words, by the way, are U.S. Army Core Values) and others like them. I hear words which any human being would want others to use to describe them even more than they'd like to hear themselves defined by their job title, the company they work for, how much money and power they have, the car they drive, the clothes they wear, etc. You know, all the things that appear to be measurements of success in our culture. 

But, the reason why Ross did what he did was much more significant.

Why Did He Do It?

What Ross McGinnis sacrificed his life for was LOVE. You see, every virtuous value leads back to Love.

Ross saw the grenade go into the Humvee. He tried to keep it from getting in.

He could have jumped out immediately after alerting everyone. He’d done his duty, right?

But, McGinnis recognized that no one inside the vehicle saw the grenade, they didn't immediately react after he screamed, "Grenade!", and he saw it sitting right in the middle of four people he couldn’t imagine the world without: These were people he Loved.

Ross knew in that split second what he was willing to live the rest of his life for.

The fact that the rest of his life lasted only a split second longer isn't the point. He made a choice to live for LOVE and in his critical moment, Ross McGinnis gave four lifetimes worth of it.

Love reminded him of his loyalty and his duty and gave him an overwhelming respect for the lives of others. Love compelled him to serve selflessly and on the honorable path.

Love provided integrity within his decisions and actions and created the personal courage Ross needed to face the consequences of his dilemma.

In Case You're Still Not Convinced

Think about it this way: What if Ross had made the different choice? What would the rest of his life had been like? Would he have considered himself a success if he'd jumped out knowing he could have done something to save his four friends? Would he have gotten what he really wanted?

Ross McGinnis believed in what he was doing, he was satisfied with his actions. He died, and it's tragic. But, he died with Love in his heart. His example is truly one of values-driven success.His is a story about Love- A Love Story.

What Does This Mean in the "Real" World?

We are each faced with dilemmas great and small every day and fail to recognize the opportunity to create value by being vulnerable.

After I read Kennedy's book, I realized what is lacking in corporate cultures where success is limited so much by the desires of the individual- Real relationships based on trust. The reason so many employees are not engaged is because nobody has given them reason to care about anybody else but themselves. What they get from the organization, their leadership and their colleagues is relegated to a transactional level, so they reciprocate.

In other words: If people don't feel the Love, why would they fight for you? Not all Love stories have happy endings. Some are tragic. Some leave you longing for something more.

Still, people say, "But, McGinnis' story is about war where lives are at risk! It's not like that in the "real" world!"

Really? Are you going to tell me finding meaningful success in your personal and professional life doesn't depend on doing what you Love with people you Love? Do you really believe you can do it without authentic relationships? Without trust? Without Love? Isn't it always relationships in which trust and Love do not exist that lead to war in the "real" world?

I promise you this, my friend, your life absolutely depends on it! And, your stake in it grows exponentially with every person you genuinely care about. 

Think about it. If I haven't convince you by now, don't bother reading the next section. It won't help you. I wish you well.

I Want to Share This Simple but Amazing "Trick"

Success is getting what you want (Look it up, see if come to the same conclusion as me). I'm not satisfied with that definition and you shouldn't be either! Something very important is missing!

It’s really hard to always know the right thing to do in every situation especially with such an incomplete definition of success, so here’s a simple "trick" that will always help you: Expand your definition of success. I call the expanded version, "Values-driven success".

Values-driven success is getting what you want and being the person you want to be. Here’s the catch, you can’t get what you really want, if you are not first the person you want to be.

Actually, it's not a trick, at all. It's a clear and logical way of thinking and acting. So, if you use it, you'll actually be clearing away all of the crap that has been limiting your success. You limit your success with confounded thought process that makes things (money, power, position, etc.) the main characters in your Love story. Are they really the reason why you're here?

If You Want to Lead Anyone...Anyone at All, You Need a System

The practice of values-driven success is scalable and can work in any cultural context if you know how to build a system for communication, measurement, and continuous improvement. 

Build that system and you can begin to build trust. Eventually, people will Love working with you. Think about it this way. I told you Ross' story and explained why he did it. The truth of the matter is, that story is as much about the other guys, the people he saved. He did it because he felt Love for them...which means up until that critical moment they did things that caused him to trust Love them.

Once you've given people a reason to engage and satisfied the conditions for Trust and Love, they will lead you to your greatest opportunities for growth. There's just no telling how much value you'll get from the Love they'll give because of what you give them!

How will your Love stories end?

Will people will do amazing things because what they value aligns with what you need them to do?

Will your staff give the effort you need them to?

Will your board focus and lead the way you need them to?

Will your customers and members give what you need to fund your efforts to help more people?

Do you know why they will or won't?

It all starts and ends with Love.

I'm interested in your thoughts and insights. Why not give some Love and share them in the comments section below? And, remember, Love doesn't always mean agreement. If you disagree with anything I've shared here, I'd Love to hear your logic and reasons.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Eakin is the author of Finding Success and the Success Engineer at BoomLife. LEARN MORE ABOUT TOM...