The Best & Most Simple Advice I Ever Got.

It’s only two words, but they’re easy to forget.

Be Useful.

Being useful is the ultimate solution. It’s the simplest and best advice I’ve ever gotten that ALWAYS changes every situation into something positive. It serves almost as some sort of mission or vision to guide me through the day. Every time I feel a lost or don’t remember what I wanted to do, I go back to the basics. I just try to be useful.

Being useful is so simple, it’s accessible to everyone and universal to almost any situation. It not only helps other people but also yourself. Being useful makes me happy, because whatever it might be, there is never a single minute wasted being useful.

Sometimes I have a bad day. It’s hard to stay positive and I get lost in the world of negativity and criticism. Especially online it’s easy to be negative and unproductive.

Exactly then I usually try to remind myself to rather be useful instead. Because being negative and being an asshole is the opposite of being useful as there is little added value for anyone involved.

There are many ways you can be useful to other people and it’s often more simple than you think — Here are my top three:

Share knowledge

You can share knowledge and the things you know with people who might know less. That’s why I always say that you are never too young to teach. There is always someone who might appreciate your tips & tricks on whatever topic it may be.

On top of it, sharing knowledge is rewarding. You’re not only helping others but also yourself. Sharing knowledge helps you to reflect, form and communicate your thoughts more clearly.

Solve a small problem

You can help people by solving a problem someone else is having. It doesn’t have to be a massive problem, it can be something small.

Sometimes when I work with other people I try to figure out what small problems they might have. And if I spot one where I feel like my expertise can help solve it within less than 15–30min of my time, I will try to solve it, for free of course and without asking for anything in return.

I know these things can be hard, because once you give someone the small finger to help, some might bite off your hand. But the people who become super demanding only because you offered them a little help usually aren’t the people you want to have around anyway.

“I have found that all ugly things are made by those who strive to make something beautiful, and that all beautiful things are made by those who strive to make something useful.” ― Oscar Wilde

It’s not your job? Do it anyway!

I’ve grown up as a jack of all trades. There is little where I would say it’s not part of my job description. Whatever needs to be fixed, I fix it. If I can fix a hardware problem, I just do it. If I can help with setting up an online payment flow, I will do it. If I can help designing an app, I will do this too.

I always love to work with people who know how to handle any situation that comes at them. And I’m not saying you should get lost in tiny tasks, but you should never be afraid doing things that are not part of your “official job description”. It always surprises me when I work with people that clearly found a problem, but haven’t even tried to solve it because it’s “not their job”.

I think being useful is a highly underestimated value that we rarely talk about. I love working with useful people because they ask the right questions rather than just trying to find the answers.

Useful people add value where there was no value before.

Useful people are interested in being useful and helping you the best way possible. Getting the job done or doing a task that you got assigned is one thing, but being useful is a completely different way of doing things.

Being useful doesn’t even require any special skills. If you feel like you can’t contribute something specific, you can still get coffee and donuts for the team, they will love you for it. In office situations, I love just organizing things, or getting plants to make the workspace nicer, or hang artworks on the wall. Whatever small thing it may be, being useful is pretty easy and can be achieved even without having any specific skills.

Even if my to do list is completely packed tomorrow, I try to focus on the tasks where I can be most useful to others. It makes me happy and sleep well at night.

And with that, I wish you a great week — Be Useful.

Yours truly,

PS: I usually send out these articles via my personal email list before they appear in a more organized format on here. Thank you to all my readers for their input & feedback which ultimately shapes the final form these articles. 🤘🏼

Want to learn more about me? I’m Tobias is a Designer & Maker + Co-Founder ofSemplice, a portfolio platform for designers. Also host of the show NTMY — Previously Art Director & Design Lead at Spotify.

Tobias van Schneider

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Self-taught Designer & Maker. Un-Employed. Founder of Formerly Spotify — More About me:

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