Do you check your email first thing in the morning? Do you answer your phone when it rings? Do you reply every message and tweet you receive?
If so, you might be sacrificing a lot more than just your time and focus; When you do these things, you are playing your role in the selfless game.
It’s a mutual game that we’ve been playing for decades with our families, friends, teachers, managers, and spouses. And the rules are simple: we are expected to answer other people’s requests, and we are greatly rewarded with praise and approval, and with the comfort that others will also do the same for us. Failure to play by the rules might cause others to feel ignored or unappreciated, which may lead them to treat us the same way in the future.
When we play the selfless game, we’re sacrificing the long term impact and value of our important work to the short term of other people’s urgent requests. We’re giving up what we want to do to make other people happy. We’re losing our dreams and winning the virtue of self sacrifice.
That’s why my biggest breakthrough happened when I became a bit selfish: when I stopped responding to other people’s urgent requests and started working on what really mattered to me.
And that made all the difference: I had a lot more time in the day, I was being interrupted less, and I got more accomplished in less time.
In the beginning, I expected many people to get pissed off. After all, my phone was off most of the time, I had my email auto-responders on for weeks at a time, and I said NO to most proposals and requests that come my way.
Surprisingly, people respected my time a lot more when I set up my rules and managed their expectations. They understood that I wasn’t ignoring them, and that I was just working on something important.
I even took selfishness a step further and started creating things that I’d really enjoy using. I created a prototyping toolkit that I really enjoy using, and thousands are buying it. I stopped writing blog posts to get buzz or traffic, and started writing ones that I’d really enjoy reading, and when I did so, more people were reading my blog than ever before!
The biggest gift we can give others is to be selfish and focus on the things that matter to us. Those who love us will forgive us, those who are equally selfish will respect us, and those who may get upset that we’re not always available to them will someday be proud of us.
– "Mr. Roark, we’re along here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us."
– "But I don’t think of you"
– The Fountainhead