Why Helping Others Succeed Can Be Your Greatest Success

“It is not true that nice guys finish last. Nice guys are winners before the game ever starts.” – Addison Walker

This past week I sent an e-mail to a friend. I thanked him for helping me over the years and being a significant factor in Becoming Minimalist’s success. He wrote back, “If I have helped you succeed, I am happy.” It was a short e-mail response, but it communicated an important truth: Our greatest successes in life are often found in helping others succeed. Our most lasting and fulfilling achievements are often earned by helping others fulfill theirs.

This is foreign thinking to a culture that often sees the world as one giant competition. In their mind, there is a set number of winners and losers. And if somebody else wins, that’s one less opportunity for me. But I have come to realize the mindset of competition is based on a faulty premise. It assumes there is a finite sized pie – that one more success in another’s life equals one less success in mine. But quite frankly, this thinking is incorrect.

There is wonderful freedom and grace in realizing the size of the pie is not finite – that in reality, the pie keeps growing. Another’s success does not mean I have less opportunity. In fact, another’s success can actually be my success if I had opportunity to enable, encourage, and promote them along the way!

Consider how helping another achieve success (however you/they decide to define it) results in significant benefits in a number of directions:

  • The receiver has reached a far greater potential than they could have on their own.
  • The world has been bettered and has been given a life-giving model to emulate.
  • The giver is remembered fondly and is often publicly (and privately) thanked for their contribution.
  • A stranger is likely to be the recipient of the original receiver “paying it forward.”
  • And the cycle begins again.

Now, just to be clear, I am starting with an assumption that our greatest joys in life are rarely found in the relentless pursuit of selfish ambition – that selfish desires always leave us lacking and searching for more. Some may think that line of thinking is too unrealistic, far-fetched, or old-fashioned. They believe that in a dog-eat-dog-world if I’m not looking out for #1, nobody is. But that line of thinking is short-sighted.

Inherently, we know we have been designed to live for something greater than ourselves. Our contribution to this world has to be measured by something more meaningful than the size of our house or the neighborhood where it is located. And our lives are going to find lasting significance in how we choose to live them… and how we enable others to live theirs.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. queen of string says

    In my experience, not only does the circle begin again, it also often comes full circle. Some of the best business I have ever got has come back through people that I had initially helped for free. Linking people to other people who can help them, with no obvious payoff for me, is one of my favourite things to do.

  2. says

    “Our contribution to this world has to be measured by something more meaningful than the size of our house or the neighborhood where it is located.”

    yes, Yes, YES!

  3. says

    The entire piece speaks to me, but this last line: “our lives are going to find lasting significance in how we choose to live them… and how we enable others to live theirs” is direct affirmation of the way of life that I practice and share. It is absolutely wonderful to receive the gift of your reflection today! Thank you :)

  4. says

    When I lived in Costa Rica, I saw this in so many people! When I had my baby there, I was amazed at the amount of help I was given from people that were strangers or that I barely knew. Right now I work as an in-home mental health practitioner. I don’t make much money but I didn’t get into this business to make a lot of money – I truly enjoy helping others live a better life. Hoping to get back to Costa Rica soon and pay it forward there. :-)

  5. says

    I have been thinking about this topic, with relation to my life, and I realize I have been waiting for a major way to help the world. In my head, I am thinking that if I don’t do a lot, it’s not worth doing anything at all. Of course, reading this post, affirms it for you, that a little help for someone else, goes a long way. We are all in a web here, a little help here, could cascade down and potentially change the lives of several hundred people. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of even doing a little.

  6. says

    “Another’s success does not mean I have less opportunity. In fact, another’s success can actually be my success if I had opportunity to enable, encourage, and promote them along the way!

    I think what you describe here (and in this entire post) is the original and true “American Dream.” Competition in life is not the same as competition in sport or game. In life, success actually breeds success amongst the actors. There is no finishing line and there is no “first place” in the game of life.

    • says

      Hey! Always nice to run into another Frank (even on the internet)

      Agreed wholeheartedly. From what I’ve seen the cutthroat win at all costs mentality has only appeared over the last hundred years or so, since the end of WWI, or maybe even WWII. Before that we didn’t see that mentality outside of the sports field, and what little there was was more good fun among friends than literally wanting to run the other guy into the ground.

  7. says

    I’ve had mobility problems my whole life. Stiffness in my legs, poor coordination, etc. Yoga has been like a gift from God. My long term goal is to become a certified yoga teacher. My brother who just graduated law school and is studying for the bar thinks I’m insane, but I’ll let him have his long hours and piles of money. I’d rather make enough to get by, and know I’m making a difference in others’ lives than have piles of money but no life.

  8. Bonnie Jo says

    Many thanks for a thought-provoking article. I have forwarded to several friends.
    Also, thank you for the website in general. I am enjoying becoming a minimalist and find the ‘load’ I have been carrying in this life is much lighter simply by not feeling the need for things and by redefining what is valuable.

  9. Tiffany says

    Love this post! I grew up in a very competitive, “it’s you or me…are you moving up or aren’t you” household. That line of thinking left me depressed for a number of years. Competing with others rather than celebrating their successes and joy only serves to steal your own happiness and satisfaction.

    I have since learned to think differently and have never been happier. I now celebrate people’s joys and try to lift others up. Sometimes I have to continually remind myself to do this (which I guess is kind of sad), but when I do, I see the real joy in life.

    So I guess the next time my family asks me when I’m going to become a REAL nurse (I work with adults with developmental disabilities in a community setting) I will let it brush off my shoulders and know that I am helping others live full, healthy lives, and that’s all that matters!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. Eric says

    I echo a lot of what’s written here. I had a difficult childhood, one that I needed to find a way out of. I began to believe in the world I saw in commercials. They seemed above it all, in a better place, the happy world of consumer products. I got a business education in university, thinking money was the path to get there. I didn’t know it was an illusion, working all those hours trying to pay for things that I wouldn’t have time to use. They became part of the set of some lost dream that didn’t come true. The consolation prize was that I could win the approval and acceptance of others through my things. Then, I got sick. My income dropped and I had to adjust. That’s when I started to learn what is really important. Things can be a burden, earning the money to pay for them, acquiring them, making a place for them, maintaining them, disposing of them. Moments and people are what I care about. Minimalism is my path now.

  11. Billy McChord says

    Eric, Joshua doesn’t have the monopoly on insightful guidance and I am sure he would be the first to agree., I found your contribution very insightful, thanks for that.

    “I didn’t know it was an illusion, working all those hours trying to pay for things that I wouldn’t have time to use.”

  12. Kristi S says

    Josh, the older I get the more I crave a sense of teamwork in this great country. The judgement, comparison, one-upping and back stabbing in our own society will be our own undoing. We certainly didn’t become a great country w such freedoms and privileges without teamwork! Raising four kids, I’m trying very hard to find a balance between teaching them how to succeed and stand apart from the crowd but to also embrace teamwork and community w an altruistic mindset. Becoming Minimalist is certainly helping me sort out what really matters in my life.

  13. Rajagopal says

    Wonderful post ..Yes our life should be a meaningful one. We came to this world with empty hand, and will go with empty hand.
    Whatever we have with us are taken from here, let us give it back to this world with lot of love.

  14. says

    Thank you for sharing this great post! Doing something for others and make others happy is the best thing we can do in our lives. In my opinion there is no better feeling than help someone with something and see this true feeling of TRUE happiness in their eyes. I don’t know is there any better feeling, do you?

    If we give more in our lives, it is sure thing that we will get more back.
    Best Regards,

  15. says

    Hi Joshua,

    Your article, “Why Helping Others Succeed Can Be Your Greatest Success” reminded me of a popular article I came across on our site Wall Street Oasis (one of the largest online finance communities with over 4 million page views/month).

    I enjoyed reading your article because you went in depth about the relationship between helping others and your own personal success. I can definitely agree that allowing others to succeed and helping them along their path can in the long run help with your own success.

    Anyway, I thought your article had a great deal of discussion on stress which was similar to the article I read on the Wall Street Oasis.

    If you’d like me to forward it your way let me know and I’ll gladly send it over.

    Wall Street Oasis

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