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The joys
of helping others

Sometimes people get the impression I am against helping others

I understand this misunderstanding.


I emphasize the importance of not acting against your own self-interest, taking both short-term and long-term selfishness into account. I emphasize the fact that it's your #1 job to take care of yourself. If you can't resolve an issue between taking care of yourself and taking care of another, considering both short-term and long-term, then you should choose courage, if necessary, to ensure that you're not sacrificing yourself for them.

Because I emphasize this, it's no wonder that others might get the impression that I don't think helping others is important. They might assume that I think we should always do what's good for us, without consideration for how it impacts others.

Not so.

We would miss out on many opportunities to be more selfish if we did that.

Helping others is an important way to serve your own self-interest

Helping others expresses itself in many ways that serve our own self-interest.

The most powerful and sustainable way to help others: trade and exchange

Absent force, fraud, and misrepresentation, trade is the most fundamental way that we take care of our own self-interests while at the same time helping others. 

If you decide to trade with someone else, most often in buying a product or service or in selling your services to a client or employer, you have obviously decided that they are helping you by being willing to trade with you so that you are better off than if you hadn't traded.

And, vice versa, so are they!


When you buy an apple, not only are you helping out the apple vendor, you're helping out scores of others. You help the farmer who grew the apple, the company and employees who created the fertilizer for the apple farm, the company and employees who created the insecticides (assuming non-organic apples!), the creators and enforcers of the legal system that ensures that the owner of the farm can rely on being able to harvest the fruits of his labor, the company and employees that transported the apple to the vendor, the company and employees who refined the fuel for the road vehicles used to transport the apple, the people who paved the roads that the apple trucks travel over, and more and more.

Wake up! Notice all the people that you're helping every time you enter into a trade, whether big or small. Regardless of any other way you may contribute to people, transactional exchanges are of fundamental value and global reach to support the mutual self-interests for all invovled.

An apple for some money


If you decide to buy an apple and give the vendor money, you are acting in your self-interest because you value the apple for than the money. You're helping the vendor serve their self-interest because they value the money more than the apple.

Your service for some money

If you decide to provide your service as a handyman to your neighbor at $20/hour and they agree, your self-interest is served because, compared to other ways you might spend those hours rather than help your neighbor with his handyman-type needs, you would rather have the $20/hour from your neighbor. Your neighbor, in contrast, prefers to get your help over keeping the money that he will pay you. Your selfishness and their selfishness are mutually served.

Get money now for paying more money later

If you provide a written agreement to pay a bank monthly installments over a certain number of years, the bank then agrees to give you a much smaller amount of money now for the purpose of buying a house. You've decided that your self-interest in being able to have that house now is worth more than all the installment payments you will make over the years. The people at the bank have decided their self-interest is served by giving you a smaller amount of money now based upon the good chance that they will get a much larger amount of money over time.

A baseball card for a baseball card

If you and your friend decide to swap some baseball cards, both of you are richer because you prefer the cards you got over the cards you gave.

Good feelings are associated with goodwill, belonging, community, and looking good

Your attachment to these feelings and ideas can cause you to fall into self-sacrifice and lose sight of the fact that your #1 job is to take care of yourself.

However, as long as you ensure that you're still taking care of yourself, then you can often enjoy expressing yourself generously to others. Any of the following could give you joy and satisfaction.

  • Taking the time to give directions to someone who stops you on the street.

  • Reporting suspicious behavior in your community.

  • Volunteering to plant trees to beautify and detoxify the environment.

  • Getting trained for and servicing a suicide hotline.

  • Smiling at someone to make them feel better.

  • Offering to help someone who's having trouble carrying their bags.

  • Donating some money to Wikipedia.

  • Volunteering to play the organ for Sunday services at your church.

  • Sponsoring someone in your Alcoholic Anonymous group.

A type of satisfaction comes from expressing your power

  • When a tourist asks for directions or other local information, you get to feel powerful and appreciated that you know things they don't.

  • If you're a good cook and people are appreciative of that, you could enjoy cooking for others from time to time. 

  • As a life coach, I can enjoy contributing to others because I can feel my power in being able to see and understand things that the person I am coaching does not see at first.

  • If you are physically strong or skillful in a certain area, you can enjoy "showing off" to someone that needs your help with your strength or skill that they do not have.

  • If you stop to give a hitchhiker a ride, not only are you likely to get their gratitude, but you can experience the power that you wield in driving a car that can transport more than one person very fast.

  • If you are wealthy in comparison to the person or people you're helping by using some of your money, you enjoy expressing the power of making a difference for others where a little bit of your money goes a long way for them.

A type of satisfaction comes from enjoying the process of something that contributes to another

Some people like the process of cooking. I love the process of coaching. Some people love the process of singing or dancing or playing a musical instrument in front of others. Some people love teaching.


If you love the process of doing something, just having the opportunity to do that so that it contributes to others means that you're already taking care of yourself. It's a win-win.

Beware the dark sides of helping


When you consider helping as a "should" or a "duty" or something you have to do to be a "good guy," it easily becomes a burden, creating a lose-win or lose-lose situation.

When you give to another expecting appreciation or reciprocation that is not forthcoming, you've set yourself up as the victim with them being the bad guy.

When you give or help, especially with advice, in a way that intrudes on the business of the person or people you're trying to contribute to, you're creating mischief for everyone by not staying in your own business and not showing respect to others that their #1 job is to take care of themselves and they are the final judge of what is best for them.

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