by Niall Doherty

“You can be more successful in two months by becoming really interested in other people’s success than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in your own success.” – Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone

I have a good story.

I’m an Irish guy traveling around the world without flying, for four years, working from my laptop.

And I’ve gotten pretty good at telling my story. I was at a language exchange last week and found myself the center of attention in a circle of seven people. They all seemed fascinated by what I had to say, and I was only too happy to keep my mouth flapping.

That kind of scene isn’t unusual for me these days. It happens quite often.

The problem is, I usually leave such a scene without knowing much about anyone else. I get so caught up in telling my own story and sharing my own ideas, that I fail to find out the interesting stories of others and learn from them.

It’s been the same online for a while now. I’ve been overly concerned with telling my own story, and have spent most of my time trying to make myself successful. I haven’t done a good job of connecting with others and helping them spread their message.

Changing it up

To try remedy this, I’ve decided to go extreme and flip everything for the month of February. What happens if I hold back on all the self-promotion and instead devote my time and energy to helping others succeed? What happens if I stop telling my story and encourage other people to tell theirs?

So here’s what I’ll be doing different in February:

  • Listen more than I talk in conversation.
  • All tweets and Facebook updates have to help promote someone else’s work.
  • Reach out to at least one person every day and ask how I can help them.
  • Actually follow through and help people, without any expectation of reciprocation.
  • In every blog post that I write, highlight some cool shit other people are doing.

I’m also going to call on you fine folks to suggest other things I can do. This whole idea only came to me recently so I’m sure it can evolve into something much more concrete before February hits.

Measuring the success of this experiment will be tough. It will largely be intangible, but I think I’ll get a good feel for whether or not the whole thing makes a positive difference. I’ll report back in March and let everyone here know how it went. Hopefully it will lead to some positive, permanent changes in how I work.

Of course, in the long run I’ll always have to spend some time looking after number one and promoting my own wares, since nobody is ever going to care as much about my success as me. But I’d like to have a better balance between helping others and helping myself. For the last year or so I feel I’ve been too much on the ME side.

The hardest part of all this may be the face-to-face conversations. I love telling my story and sharing lessons I’ve learned with other people. Quite often though I get carried away and realize after half an hour that I’ve been doing all the talking and I’ve yet to learn anything about the other person. And this sucks because I know I can learn just as much from others as they can from me, if not more. So every time I dominate a conversation, I’m stopping myself from learning something new, and I’m missing an opportunity to make that person feel valued and important. That needs to change.

So, how can I help you?

Are you working on something cool that I can help promote? Is there someone in my network that you’d like to be introduced to? Or maybe I can help you out with a few tips on blogging or web development.

Keep in mind though that I won’t be doing lots of free web design work. I’ll still be charging my usual rate for that ($45 per hour) since I’ll need to make a living. But I’m happy to help point folks in the right direction or do small tasks for free. As long as it doesn’t take time away from my paid work, and I don’t have to spend more than 50 hours total in front of the computer per week, nothing’s really off limits.

Here’s to your success!

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