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Be useful — not influential.

The one cog in the wheel that never rusts or fails no matter how worn it gets is the one cog that most overlook in the pursuit of purpose.

And perhaps it’s because purpose isn’t really the conscious pursuit as much as it is the underlying layer we sometimes lose perspective on.

For most of us on the creative or entrepreneurial journey — including myself — the ego is too often in the driver’s seat with the foot of attention pressing pedal to the metal.

I’ve typically attributed my struggles as simply the extension of that great, nebulous fear beast we’re all trying to slay with the prowess of productivity and the sword of brute force.

We have words spilled in biblical proportions on what it takes to push through fear and uncertainty, but I often wonder if the nature of our struggles isn’t as much about what we fear as it is what we’re running toward.

I get the increasing sense that my own struggles come from a lack of appreciation and true understanding of the the path that I am walking.

And that path is the path of service, of relevance, of impact on even the smallest of measurable levels.

Truth is, we all want to skip to head of the line and leap the gap between our existing reality and the life we hope for.

The leap tends to land us right in the shining fluorescence of influence — a breed of fame as equally addicting as anything Hollywood can serve piping hot.

But what’s right in front of you, always, is the opportunity to serve others in the name of something greater than the individual ego.

In fact, I’d argue that lasting, positive influence is almost always (with rare exception) the byproduct of service and value. The more we learn from our work on the path to truly mastering a craft, the more opportunity we have to give to others from what we learn.

Until recently, I had held onto this false notion that through enough determination and dedication to the course, I would earn the opportunity to influence others.

Now, I am coming terms with another truth altogether:

That my pursuit of influence was more often about self worth than the pursuit of some greater calling.

In recent months, I’ve started a subtle shift and pivot toward the pursuit of pragmatism and a deeper alignment with my work as a balancing weight to the natural desire for validation and influence.

This started with me coming to terms how little I knew about the relationship between service and success. It continues with constantly reminding myself that carving out a niche in my own little corner of the world is just as valuable as the platform to be envied.

Which I guess is to say:

What you do to help others grow will only help you grow as well.

Too few of us embrace the beauty of selflessness. So for me, influence will have to ask for ride on the coattails of contribution if it wants to be part of the adventure.

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