You Can Energise your Work... And Your Life! 2nd Approach: What's In It For Others - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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You Can Energise your Work... And Your Life! 2nd Approach: What's In It For Others

Aug 05, 2014


A frazzled woman walks into a shoe store with a young boy trailing behind by the dupatta. Do you have children's shoes, she asks? The boy looks up at the salesman wide-eyed in anticipation of new shoes. But seeing the salesman reluctantly shake his head, his face fell. 'We don't sell children's shoes, Ma'am.' The boy looks like he's about to start wailing.

'But,' the salesman continues with a sudden burst of a smile, 'we have something else for you!'

And he leans down and offers the boy a handful of sweets from the candy bowl on his counter.

The boy's face lights up. The mother sighs with relief at averted disaster. And the salesmen beams, satisfied at a job well done.

For the salesman in my story, Sahil, the job was not just selling a product, not making a profit, not about the commission... It was making someone smile. That is what made him beam with pride.

Source: Ami Parikh / Shutterstock
The first approach we talked about in the series, energising your work and life, was being present. Not regretting the past, not worrying about the future, but focusing on the present moment.

The approach we will discuss today is making someone smile.

Every job that every person does, is really about other people. Everything a manufacturer makes, a chef creates, a writer writes, an accountant counts, a cleaner cleans... it's all done for the sake of somebody. It fills a need, adds value to a life, and brings smiles.

Sahil, however, is lucky. In his job he stands face-to-face with the customer. He is rewarded with an energising smile that keeps him engaged day after day.

In his business, Sahil likes to say 'Hum sirf jute nahin bechte hain, hum khushiyan baat-te hai'. 'We're not just selling shoes, we're sharing happiness.'

But for the rest of us, cooped up in offices, back rooms, kitchens... we don't get to see the smiles. No one's sharing the khushiyan with us. No wonder our energies are flagging!

A natural human reaction is to ask WIIFM...What's In It For Me?

When we do that - we don't always find the answer. You're working at a job you feel trapped in, underpaid, overworked, underwhelmed... can't wait to get home, get out, and back to your life. That's depressing... you're left feeling unhappy and as though you're wasting your life away.

You spend over half your life working, and doing work-related things. Getting ready for work, commuting to work, eating at work ... even if the rest of your life is wonderful, that's still only half of it. Are you supposed to go through life...trapped in an 8-hour a day prison? What can you do?

The opposite reaction, then, is the extraordinary thought... What's in it for others?

The answer to this question is where the source of your energy lies - with the many people your work impacts no matter how many degrees of separation lie between you.

And if you can just remember them, the smiles at the other end of the line, you will find they can bring you energy, love for your work, and the whole of your life back.... Even from afar.

Malcolm Gladwell says in his bestselling book, Outliers: "Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig."

Recognizing that someone somewhere is smiling because of the work you do, infuses your actions with meaning, and makes your heart want to dance.

I know that's difficult. When you're inundated with paperwork, haven't taken as much as a chai break in six hours, and probably won't be able to make it home to say goodnight before your children fall asleep, how do you make yourself think of a stranger's smile? When you feel like you don't have a choice, how can you feel like you're giving something, like you're contributing, or adding value? You just end up feeling exploited.

Work makes people feel bad, but voluntary work makes them feel good. They have better self-esteem and a sense of empowerment, and they feel needed and appreciated, according to health expert Leanne Beattie. Shouldn't all work feel the same?

But paid work makes you feel like a sell-out. If you're getting paid, then it's not about 'giving', it's just about the money, right? And you HAVE to be at work, you can't choose to be elsewhere. You feel unempowered - losing control of your time, and your life. Certainly sounds like prison.

There's no question that volunteering, or sewa, is valuable - it's good for the person who gives, good for the one who receives, good for the community at large...

But the truth is, all work is valuable (unless, of course, you are an assassin or nuclear warhead maker)! And all work is sewa. We all remember Gandhi Bapu as the man who insisted on cleaning toilets - for himself and others. He said, "Just as there is no shame in being a labourer for one's self, so also is there no shame in labouring for others."

If you ask what's in it for others you will see that whether you get paid for it or not, your contribution is the same, the end result is the same, and the people get what they need. It won't be about you anymore, it becomes about them.

So remember them because it will take your focus off yourself and your aching back, and fill your work with the same love and commitment you would give volunteer work. Remember them because it will energise your work... because making them happy, will make you happy!

Quoting Malcolm Gladwell once again - simply because so much of what he says strikes a chord with me - he says, "What we do as a community, as a society, for each other, matters as much as what we do for ourselves. It sounds a little trite, but there's a powerful amount of truth in that, I think."

Hold on to that truth - remind yourself that you are a contributing member of society. The truth of the child's smile or a grateful person that lets you know that you're really making a difference. In someone else's life, and in yours. And that knowledge will make your life buzz with energy and happiness.

Close your eyes and take a moment to think about who, at the other end of your work, is smiling because of it. Then tell us how this made you feel... Oh, and the final and most crucial third approach to Energising your work...and your life... will be in your Inbox next Friday!


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7 Responses to "You Can Energise your Work... And Your Life! 2nd Approach: What's In It For Others"

G Bhaskara Rao

11 Aug, 2015

Very interesting and useful reading. Big thank you Anisa


09 Aug, 2014

Hi Anisa. The truth is so simple yet so unrealized. Although a material gain from this approach is possible but the fact is it makes your day and really really energizes not only the person himself but his surroundings as well. The apt word is really is ENERGY..... never stressed upon by most motivators. Very interesting and enlightening read indeed.

Girdhar Gopal Arora

07 Aug, 2014

Dear Anisa, "There's no question that volunteering, or sewa, is valuable - it's good for the person who gives, good for the one who receives, good for the community at large..." is the elixir of life. One is exerting oneself to earn for other's sake mostly, that brings no real happiness in one's life, whereas, giving is for others sake generally, but brings real and natural happiness in both, giver's and taker's lives. Sewa is the real virtue for both- material and spiritual upliftment.


06 Aug, 2014

Thanks guys. Mr. T actually mom did not buy chappals that day. But now she is a regular customer of the brand and of Sahil!

rupa murali

06 Aug, 2014

Hiee.. it was worth reading and very well written... quite inspiring and felt like reading it again... an eye opener and yes yiu indeed mads me smile and feel satisfied for whatever I had done since morning... I can visualize the smiles in my daughters n husbands face n my face sure did lit up.... thanks for the energetic feel.. rupa murali

M M Amalsadvala

05 Aug, 2014

Your article - You can Energise your Work ... And Your Life 2nd Approach is a well brought out subject, aptly perfect in its presentation. Wish to read many more. Go on. Thank you

Turab Dedanwala

05 Aug, 2014

Anisa --- good post and inspiring. The success of Sahil was that the mom bought a pair of Chappal for her, which was not mentioned in the post. It always pays in life to smile and be at service of others.


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