Sunday, January 8, 2012

Be Selfish!


I live in a world where altruism is demanded, respected and rewarded. Altruism means placing the welfare of others above one’s own welfare. The foundation of altruism lies in selflessness and it entails in sacrificing personal benefits for the benefit of a larger group. The opposite of altruism i.e. selfishness is, however, condemned and considered immoral. Being selfish is rated as petty, bad and immoral. But, just like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, I believe in selfishness. As far as your work life is concerned, you need to learn to be selfish. Selfishness, or rational self-interest (in the words of Ayn Rand) is a fuel that drives you to success and good work. It is what helps you stand for what you believe in and prevents you from being a doormat. I’ll clarify this statement with the use of three examples:

I teach and I teach because there are many benefits I derive out of teaching. Teaching helps me develop my skills – communication, public speaking, public handling and leadership. It also earns me good money, updates me on the subject I’m teaching and gives me free time as well as freedom. I do not teach because I believe my teaching is going to bring some kind of revolution and change the lives of the students. Yes, if I’m a good teacher then the students will benefit more than by being taught by a bad teacher. But, being a good teacher also offers benefits for me – better reputation and the chance to continue teaching in every semester. Thus, when my primary reason for teaching is my personal benefits then I will make it a point to teach well and my motivation for teaching will be internal. However, if I’m teaching for the sake of students then first thing I’ll want is approval. And, then I’ll have expectation for bigger rewards like respect and acknowledgement of my efforts. I might be overly ambitious and perhaps too accommodating. My motivation will disappear if the students show no enthusiasm in their studies. I’ll consider the whole process so unfair – I’m teaching for the greater welfare of the students and they just don’t care. I will take any harsh comment from the students very personally and might end up frustrated.

Let us now talk about writing. I write primarily because I can write and I have ideas I wish to share. When I write I’m satisfied because I’ll know I haven’t let the music in my heart die. It is a form of expression and relief for me. It is perhaps the only legacy I’ll leave behind. Thus, when I write for myself I will continue writing no matter what. But, if I start writing for the readers then the first thing I'll want is popularity among readers. I’ll want my subscribers to increase. I will be disappointed if my writings are unable to inspire anybody. I may even try to please everyone and in this process write things I don’t believe in. When I write selfishly, I’m not just being authentic but I’m also okay if no one chooses to read what I write. I won’t be upset when the subscriber and the visitor list don’t increase. There will surely be few articles where what I write and what the readers want to hear will collide.

Finally, let us think of the workplace. There will be two factors that have to mutually interact: the organizational objectives and our personal objectives. Whenever we’re hired in an organization then we’re a tool to achieve the organizational goals. But, why do we join the organization in the first place? We do it because we want to earn money or learn from experience that will help us further in finding a job that’ll pay us well. Or, we might be enticed by the designation and the power we get through affiliation. How many of us are thinking of the organizational objectives and its impact on the society in the first place? If we start caring more about the organizational development rather than our personal development then we’ll start to get frustrated when the decisions of the higher level managers cause the organization to deviate from its objectives. As long as we’re selfish, we’re fine working in the organization. When we start thinking of the greater good, our expectations rise thinking we should receive preferential treatment for the goodwill we harbour in our heart for the enterprise. To enhance our skills we devote ourselves to organizational learning, to increase our chances for future employment we take on challenges and overcoming them will be a thing to boast about in our CV, to earn money we work more hours and to retain the employment for basic survival we follow the organizational rules. At the end, it’s the selfishness that’s at the heart of all our work.

If I don’t teach then the students will have a different teacher and if I don’t write the world won’t fall apart. Similarly, if you don’t work in an organization then there will be someone else in your place. Since we’re all easily replaceable we might as well work for our own sake. The truth is others just don’t care about our actions. It doesn’t matter to them if we’re doing some grand act for their sake or in other words ‘we’re being altruistic’. All they care is how our actions affect their benefit. Therefore, if you want to succeed and be a practical-minded person in the workplace then be selfish. Work for yourself and your personal benefit. Don’t work for others and don’t idolize the concept of greater good. Selfishness may be condemned and may be looked at with vile eyes but being selfish eventually pays off through a better job performance and greater achievement.

See - even a book has been written about the virtues of selfishness!


  • January 9, 2012 at 4:25 AM
    shardul says:

    nice one.
    swartha plus swartha is niswartha.

    coz swarthi people are the great people in world.


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