Change How You Think About Your Life and Company

In all the years of writing Expert columns and putting out videos, my last article “Get Links Now: Make a Difference, Make Connections” was possibly the most well-received article I’ve ever put out.

So many of you wrote to tell me how that article helped you better understand the “secret” of getting links. Thank you all very much for taking the time to let me know how that piece affected you.

One of my tips was to care about something greater than yourself.

I was reminded of that tip while I watched Sen. John McCain‘s Republican nominee acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. He continually impressed upon the audience the importance of things greater than self. Regardless of political affiliation, it was hard not to be moved by his Vietnam POW experiences. He said that he learned his greater-than-self belief from the years of torture and confinement in that North Vietnamese prison camp. He had reached his breaking point, which ultimately became his turning point.

Obviously, few of us will ever be put in a position like that. But that doesn’t mean we don’t all have our own personal tests and tortures. Cancer, heart attacks, job layoffs, failed businesses, failed dreams, failed marriages. In our own ways, it’s actually rare to not know significant suffering.

Near the end of McCain’s speech, he said, “Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.”

If anyone would know, it’s him. By being severely tortured, he said he actually fell more in love with his country than ever before. “I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s.”

It seems backward. How could you love a country more that allowed you to be tortured and left to rot for years in solitary confinement? It’s all perspective. Everyone has problems. It’s what you do with them that matters.

Consider John Walsh. After the murder of his son, Adam, Walsh eventually went on to start the TV show “America’s Most Wanted.”

Consider Nancy Brinker. After her sister died from breast cancer at age 36, Brinker felt the outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment. She went on to start a foundation in her sister’s name, The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Consider Randy Pausch. After learning his pancreatic cancer was terminal, he conceived of “The Last Lecture.” It is an optimistic, upbeat speech on achieving childhood dreams.

These are great people. Their greatness comes from not desiring greatness and glory. Their greatness comes from dedicating their lives to something bigger than themselves.

However, like you, I can’t stop my life to become the next John Walsh or Nancy Brinker. We’re all strapped down with significant burdens.

But even the smallest thing can make a big difference. Here are some very small things you can do make a difference:

  • Cancer: Start a blog to record your experiences, whether you, or someone close to you, has the disease. Put this blog on your business Web site.
  • Heart Attack: If you’ve had one, start a Meetup group with others in your area who’ve had a heart attack and want to start a healthy life. Record your progress on your corporate Web site.
  • Job layoffs: If you’ve laid people off, create a process to help make the transition as easy as possible. Help them with their resumes. Hold a networking event with other businesses in your area to help them find a new job. Offer training to help them move into a new position. Physically create the process and put it on your Web site for other businesses to access and download.
  • Failed business: Write a book on why you failed. Looking back, what were the biggest mistakes you made? How can you help others avoid the pitfalls that afflicted you?
  • Failed dreams: What did you set out to achieve and didn’t accomplish? Create a site dedicated to failed dreams. Have a discussion forum where others can post their failures and offer support to them to keep trying.
  • Failed marriage. Create an online support group at Ning for people in your specific situation (e.g., divorced after a year, divorced after 20 years, gay divorce, divorced with children).

This may sound too personal to you. Maybe you don’t want to air your dirty laundry on the Web for everyone to see and judge.

The secret here is vulnerability. People will be attracted to you because you’re sharing a fragile part of you that helps them relate to you. Additionally, you’re helping people who are experiencing similar suffering.

I’m not talking about doing something to get links here. I’m talking about changing how you think about your life and your company. The links will come naturally.

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