Billions

Here’s a lesser known productivity trick: help others.

How do you motivate yourself to get things done?

Do you trick and cajole yourself into completing tasks, or do you give yourself some kind of motivation that says “This will be good for me in the long run”?

I bet you appeal to your self interest.

“This is good for me.”

“This will help me.”

“I need to do this so I can get ahead.”

It’s not selfish to say things like that to motivate yourself. It’s a casual pressure. And everyone does it every day.

But it’s also one with very few consequences.

If you don’t do something, you’ll always forgive yourself. Try it next time you order the double milkshake instead of a fruit bowl.

Your guilt won’t last too long.


I was watching season two of Billions last night, and there was a plot-line that revolved around one of the main characters, billionaire investor Bobby Axelrod, trying to win a bid for an NFL team.

He fights and undermines and uses people to get himself ahead in the bidding, but seems to have a change of heart when it seems like the last move he has available to himself is to do something truly good to get into the NFL’s good graces.

Bobby meets with another billionaire who has taken The Giving Pledge, the oath that several real world billionaires have taken to give away the majority of their wealth through philanthropy.

The billionaire who had taken the pledge asks Bobby if he remembered what it felt like to make his first million dollars.

Bobby smiles and says he does.

The billionaire looks across the table at Bobby and says that the next time he ever felt as giddy, as powerful, as in control as he did when he made his first million was the moment he decided he was going to give it all away.

In that moment, he was the master of his money, his motivations, and his memory. His legacy was secured, and he felt liberation and true power.

True power to influence, for the better, the lives of people he wouldn’t ever meet.

The way he frames that power is that it’s an ultimate form of control.

Not control over someone else, but control over everything you might be trying to accomplish.

And that control means you can be productive.

On your terms.

For others.

That philanthropic attitude brings you benefits, and helps other people accomplish their goals too!

When you tell someone else you’re going to do something, not for you, but for them, it can drive you to actually finish that thing. And it means you want to do a great job, because you want them to be proud of you.

I’m not saying you should just promise the moon to everyone you meet in hopes of riches.

I’m just saying that when it feels like you can’t create a motivation to complete a task, ask yourself who that task is for?

When it’s for someone else, but you get the benefit (like getting paid), think past what that does for you, and think about what you’re doing for them.

Maybe you’re creating something that will get the message of a charity or company in front of more people, or building a website that will create leads for not just a company, but Tony, the guy you spoke on the phone with who has been having a tough quarter, but could bounce back with the help of your sales funnels.

Channel some empathy into the job you’re doing, and you might feel empowered to be that much better at it.

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