When I was 23-years-old, I was incredibly fortunate to receive a full scholarship for a year of graduate studies in Latin American History at the University of São Paulo, Brazil from Rotary International. That year changed my life in many positive ways both personally and professionally.
Before applying for the scholarship, I knew little about Rotary International, an international service organization of 1.2 million business leaders from 200 countries serving others by providing humanitarian services, encouraging high ethical standards for all professions, and advancing goodwill and peace around the world. Rotarians committed to “Service Above Self,” the organization’s guiding principal and official motto, have improved millions of lives around the world since 1905.
While serving others unselfishly, Rotarians understand that the time, energy and money that they give to others will make their own lives better. Being a member of the Rotary Club of Portland, Oregon, the 15th oldest Rotary Club in the world founded in 1910, has taught me many important lessons about helping others succeed without expectation of benefit. These include:
Share your knowledge.
Give people the information and tools that will help them prosper. Instead of promoting your services, take time to educate, encourage and support your connections by sharing what you’ve learned in your own business or profession. When people see that you’re committed to their advancement, they naturally want to reciprocate and help you achieve your goals.
Give your full attention.
Technology has made it easy to communicate with large audiences at once, yet people still want to be recognized and appreciated as individuals. Meet people for coffee, take them to lunch, or sit down for a heartfelt conversation. Philosopher Simone Weil said it best: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” You’ll be noticed and appreciated for focusing on others.
Volunteer your time.
We’ve all met people who can’t say “no” to a volunteer request. The key to avoiding burnout and making the most of your time is to support causes that you are genuinely passionate about. Working with people who share your commitment and your enthusiasm will put you in the best position to build relationships and strengthen connections while contributing to something greater than yourself.
Keep your commitments.
“Eighty percent of success in life is showing up,” said Woody Allen. Whether it’s attending an open house for a friend’s business, cheering at a Little League game sponsored by your local insurance agent, or watching a colleague cross the finish line at an athletic event, your presence is appreciated. Demonstrating support for the people you know will make them (and you) feel great. It also increases the likelihood that they’ll want to do business with you.
Connect your connections.
As someone who sees everyone as a potential friend instead of a business contact, a connector naturally has a wide network. “Superconnectors” take it one step further. They help facilitate new and authentic connections by introducing people who can help one another. Consider this: Identify two people in your LinkedIn network who don’t know each but might benefit from a meeting. Then, invite them both out to lunch. Whether they hit it off or not, they’ll be grateful to you for the connection.
The most successful people are usually those who surround themselves with a network of colleagues, coaches, mentors and friends. When you make connections to make connections, and not to further your own interests, good things happen.