“We can only give to others that which we give to ourselves. When we put ourselves first and do what we love, we are able to better serve others.” — Misti Burmeister

Selfishness often gets a bad rap. Yes, there are times when we are better served by acting in the interest of others, or when it is simply the right thing to do so. But when it comes to the most important decisions a person can make – you know, those life-altering ones like who we marry and what we do for a living – we better serve everyone by selfishly and stubbornly pursuing that which makes us happy.

Case in point: Recently, I was having trouble with a tooth so I made a dentist appointment. Just as my all-time favorite hygienist was finishing up with my cleaning, the dentist popped in for my exam.  

This dentist is both a businessman and a dentist. Not a bad combination, except that he likes to do both at the same time.

While he was poking around in my mouth (very far from a pleasant experience for most people), he started asking for advice on a potential business idea.

This was clearly not the time for an honest, thoughtful assessment of his business plan. Did he really expect me to say “your idea is terrible” while he had his fingers in my mouth and sharp objects in his hands?

The more excited he got about his new business idea, the more concerned I got for my teeth. I began to wonder if he was even paying attention to what he was doing.

He decided to X-ray the tooth, and while I was sitting there wearing a lead vest, he came back in the room, tossed his computer on my lap and said, “Take a look at the presentation we’re doing for investors in a few days.”

My immediate thought was, “I wonder what’s going to blow up first – the computer or my tooth.” So, I got a little dramatic, but seriously, I had no idea how the computer might interact with the lead vest and X-ray machine!

I closed the computer and pushed it as far down my lap as I could, hoping to reduce any potential side effects of all this technology.

The X-ray showed a healthy tooth, so he told me to come back if it kept bothering me.

The whole incident led me to reconsider a past experience with this same dentist. After he replaced an old filling, my tooth hurt for several months, and now I had to wonder if his impatience – and his divided attention – caused more trauma than necessary. If he was so busy thinking about, and looking for, new ways to make money, I hardly think he was focused on me.

I love my hygienist, but not that much! I knew it was time to find a new dentist – one who loves being a dentist, who selfishly enjoys his/her work. Naturally, that selfishness would benefit me as a patient.

Similarly, I would rather work with leaders who selfishly focus their lives on doing the jobs they love, rather than work with one who’s doing it for any other reason. That kind of selfishness translates into passion and purpose – qualities that make a leader great.

We can only give to others that which we give to ourselves. When we put ourselves first and do what we love, we are able to better serve others.

So, please, be selfish. Find a job you love and do it with joy. Your clients, employees, colleagues and leaders will thank you!

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes.