Invest In Others

The second principle focuses on this idea: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Zig Ziglar said it best—if you help enough people get what they want, then they will help you to get what you want. Your direction in life is determined by not only what you do for yourself, but how you invest your money, love, and time into others. It’s important to show someone that they are valuable—that they are not forgotten. Remember that we are all connected together. When you help one, you help all.   

                As I was pursuing my master’s in Human Relations at the University of Oklahoma, the program required me to do an internship. I chose to work with troubled youth from military families. I remember being paired with one young man in particular who was very quiet, reserved, and respectful. It’s possible that both of his parents were in the military. He got into the program because he got caught stealing from the military exchange store. Since he was underaged, the military authorities put him in this program; he lost his privileges and was put on probation for six months. When I met this young man, he was stuck in this unfortunate, cyclical stage of his life. Upon talking with him, I discovered that he was fascinating, creative, and introspective. What a wonderful mind and thought patterns he displayed. However, no one was listening to him and his struggles. While working with him, I didn’t impose the “why” or “what you should do” lessons of life on him. I simply listened and helped him realize that the answers were inside of him.

As time went on, he realized that I was not a threat. We connected.  I remember that sometimes, during our sessions together, we would sit for long periods of time on the bleachers at the gymnasium watching other guys play ball. In these moments, we would have little to no words of communication, and instead forged a bond of trust through the silence and togetherness. I showed myself to be friendly.  Abe Lincoln once famously said, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” Once trust was formed, this young man’s walls came crashing down. The more he talked and opened up, the more I listened. All he wanted was someone to listen—something his parents, teachers, and society had never given him. In John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John would say, “If you want to get results, you’ve got to get better at connecting with people.” After I finished the program, I understood that the young man’s life had turned around. His perspective about life, home, and his grades had shifted—all because someone listened to him.

This experience allowed me to understand something core about myself: the greatest joy rests in giving back to others. I now possess a philosophy about life and how you should live it. One should break their life into thirds. One third of your life, you learn; one third of your life you earn; and the other third of your life, you return. The greatest example of the “return” stage is to invest in others: give back to your community, your job, and your loved ones. I promise you that someone is waiting for you to listen.

Dr. Derrick Darden, PhD

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