Being Selfish is Good For Your Career

by Sharlyn Lauby on June 29, 2010

One of the things ingrained into us as children is the idea that being selfish is a bad thing.  Wikipedia defines it as “placing one’s own needs above the needs of others.”  So if that’s what selfish means and being selfish is an undesirable quality, let me offer something to consider.  I saw this tweet the other day…would you define it as being selfish?

consulting, career, career development, strategic thinking

Clearly, Greg is saying this is the way I want people to ask for an appointment.  But I can’t help but think that’s not being selfish.  He’s managing his time.  And he’s telling people instead of spending 20 minutes making the appointment, use the 20 minutes during the appointment.

I’m using this example because I can totally empathize with Greg.  How many times do we get asked for 5 minutes that turns into 25?  Or someone wants to network with us and we give them an hour of our time – not because we believe there’s a relationship to develop but because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.  But if we say no, then we’re considered selfish or only out for our own self-interests.

Ever wonder how you’d get stuff done if you met with everyone who wanted some of your time?  I do.  I really struggle with this.  Where does taking care of business stop and being selfish start?

Exploring self-interest isn’t a new concept.  Author Ayn Rand wrote about it in The Virtue of Selfishness – the idea that it’s rational to act in your own self-interest.  And logically, it’s irrational to act contrary to yourself in order to serve others.  We serve others because we believe it’s in our best self-interest to do so.  Interesting stuff!

No ExcusesBrian Tracy put a modern twist on this subject in a piece about networking.  He recommends not apologizing for being a little selfish.  The article is a bit lengthy but a good read.  You can check it out here.  My takeaway from Brian’s article is, do things that make sense for you.  And don’t be afraid to nicely turn an invitation down.

Speaking of Brian, he graciously sent me a copy of his latest book “No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline.”  The book focuses on how to set goals and be more disciplined to achieve those goals.  If you’re interested in checking it out, drop me a note in the comments.  I’ll draw a name on Friday, July 2 and send you Brian’s book.

And, I’ll toss in a Starbucks gift card (because I have no self-discipline when a caramel macchiato is involved…)  Cheers!


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