Serve Other People: The Key to a Fulfilling Life

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you the kind of person who always seeks ways to contribute to the greater good? Why do you think it is important to serve other people?

Just as sharing your wealth brings you prosperity, serving others enriches your life while making the world a better place. There are endless options when it comes to contributing to the greater good, but as with anything, some will be more meaningful than others—it all depends on your values, personality, and life experience.

Read more about how to serve other people, and the success stories of those who have started on this path. 

Questions to Get Started

To serve other people, ask yourself the following questions to determine which opportunities align with your interests:

  1. Which organization’s work do you admire? You may already know of an organization whose work you’d like to help bolster in some way. Explore what needs they have for your skills or expertise.
  2. Which causes, issues, or people are important to you? Examples include childhood literacy, veterans, or the environment. 

Ways to Serve

Here are some common ways to serve others:

1. Volunteer. Volunteering is one of the best ways to serve others. Many organizations rely on volunteers with business expertise for accounting, fundraising, and recruiting volunteers. They also need board members knowledgeable about the business.

The benefits of volunteering include:

  • Expanding your personal and professional network. When you volunteer, you meet many people who may become friends or be able to connect you with jobs and other professional opportunities. Plus, studies show that people who volunteer when they’re young land higher-paying jobs later in life. This could be because some companies value hiring employees with volunteer experience on their resumes.
  • Developing new skills. Volunteering can be a great way to hone a new skill. Some companies recognize this and have built volunteering into their employee evaluations. For example, SAFECO has a program that connects employees with volunteer opportunities that will help employees develop useful new skills.
  • Improved health. Studies of volunteers show that volunteers tend to get sick less often, have greater self-esteem, and recover from heart attacks faster compared to people who don’t volunteer.

2. Focus your company’s products or services on helping others. Sir John Marks Templeton, the billionaire who didn’t spend more than he saved, looked at the success of businesses over time. He found that businesses that focus on improving people’s lives by improving their services or products are the most successful. To determine whether your company does this, ask whether the service or product you provide will be beneficial or useful to the public over time.

Service Brings Joy: Kenneth Behring’s Story

Growing up in an economically depressed part of Wisconsin, Kenneth Behring earned money through jobs like caddying and working retail. After high school, he sold used cars and became a millionaire by age 27. His wealth continued to grow when he started a new career as a real estate developer. He now regularly makes the Forbes 400 and Fortune 500 lists for wealthiest people in the U.S.; his net worth is about $495 million.

Behring’s interest in serving others began later in life. First, he went through several stages of trying to find happiness in things. When one stage didn’t bring him happiness, he moved onto the next one. Here are Behring’s stages:

  1. Accumulation. In this stage, Behring sought happiness by buying basic things he didn’t have, like a house, and making sure his business was developing appropriately. 
  2. Luxury accumulation. Behring decided to start accumulating luxury items, such as large houses and fancy vacations, thinking he hadn’t found happiness because he’d only focused on meeting basic needs.
  3. Luxury accumulation, but different. Behring started to wonder if he didn’t have the right luxury things and experiences. He started buying expensive classic cars, growing his collection to over 100 cars, and he bought the NFL’s Seahawks team with a friend. Despite this, he still wasn’t happy.

Behring’s life changed when he agreed to deliver a small order of wheelchairs to Romania for a friend, using his private plane on his way home from a trip to Africa. During the visit, he helped lift a man who had lost his wife and survived a stroke into a wheelchair. The man was so moved, he began to cry, and Behring experienced deeper levels of joy than he ever had before. He started the Wheelchair Foundation to give wheelchairs to people with disabilities. 

Serve Other People: The Key to a Fulfilling Life

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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