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Focus on Others to Get What You Want

MichelCatalanoWhen an idea hits me from three different directions at once, I should probably pay close attention—or at least write a blog post about it.

Last weekend, in reading The Obstacle Is the Way, by Ryan Holiday, I noted his advice that one way to make your personal fears and worries diminish is to focus on others. On Monday morning, I also read Mike Kunkle’s blog post about the servant approach to selling, in which he quoted Zig Ziglar’s line that “You get want you want in life by helping enough others get what they want.”

But the real kicker came when I read the morning paper, and came across a real-life demonstration of the power of focusing on others in a life-or-death situation:

Michele Catalano was at his print shop outside of Paris, when he noticed the two brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack approaching. He quickly told his employee, Lilian, to hide, and went to meet them. During the hour he spent with the terrorists, he managed to keep calm even as they asked him three times whether there was anyone else in the building. As he told the AP: “I stayed an hour with them. I was never scared, because I had only one idea in my head: ‘They should not go to the end (of the hallway) to see Lilian, that’s all.’ That’s what kept me calm.”

I don’t know if Mr. Catalano reads motivational books or blogs, but he instinctively took the best possible course he could have in deadly circumstances. Besides saving his employee, his cool demeanor is probably what led his captors to release him after an hour, so by focusing on keeping someone else alive he managed his own survival.

Hopefully none of us will ever face a situation like that, but the idea of getting what you want by focusing on others has immediate application in sales and in presentations. In sales, focusing on what you can do for the customer rather than on what they can do for you will put you in the right problem-solving mode and make it easier for you to come up with good answers. One reason is that it’s generally easier to think clearly about someone else’s situation than on yours.

Focusing on others is also helpful in delivering presentations, especially if you suffer from pre-presentation jitters. Take the attitude that you have an important message that will help your listeners get what they want, and that outside focus will take your mind off your own internal state and make you more confident at the same time.

Terrorism is the ultimate selfish act—being so wrapped up into your own goals and twisted passions that you are willing to hurt and kill innocent people. We may never understand what drives some people to commit such heinous acts, but fortunately we each have the power within us to be part of the response—to think more of others and less of ourselves.

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