The Unlimited Power of Benevolence
The record-company negotiations ultimately came down to two companies, Warner’s and Sony. We went to see Tommy Mottola of Sony/Epic in New York; he was currently riding a wave of success with Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson. Tommy was pushing the hardest to get us, and he made that clear by telling us he knew we were talking to all these other labels, but in the end, we’d sign with Epic.
Our thinking was that we had been mistreated at EMI. We’d had seven A&R guys in seven years, no stability at all. We were looking for a good home. When Eric convened a lunch meeting and told us that Epic had upped their offer by a million, the four of us got up and started doing a conga line around the restaurant chanting “Epic! Epic! Epic!” We had gone from being the earnest “Let’s have a family situation” to “A million more? Let’s go with the corporate monsters from New York.”
Eric dropped a bombshell on us at that meeting. He sat us down and said, “I’ve got news for you guys. Each of you will be getting a check for a million dollars.” We each had a few thousand dollars to our names, and we were instant millionaires. It felt like we’d won the lottery. We were screaming and hugging one another when we realized that for the first time, we wouldn’t have to scrape and scratch and live from week to week. Each of us decided on the spot to buy a house. Within two weeks’ time, we all had new homes.
. . . We decided to go with Sony, with the proviso that they buy us out of the last album due to EMI. The entire brass of Epic/Sony records flew out to the Four Seasons in L.A. for a lavish brunch to celebrate the decision and do some photo ops. We were ready to go to work as soon as they could extricate us from the EMI contract. But even though they told us it would be only a matter of days, the days dragged on and on and turned into months.
. . . Shortly after that, I got a phone call from Mo Austin at Warner’s. “I heard about the deal you made with Sony,” he began. “Congratulations, it sounds like a fantastic deal, and Sony’s not a bad record company, so just go out and make the greatest record you can make. Go get ‘em.” I hung up the phone, genuinely touched. The coolest, most real person we had met during all these negotiations had just personally called to encourage me to make a great record for a rival company.
That was the kind of guy I’d want to be working for. I called up Flea, and he had gotten the same call. He felt the same way. We called Lindy and asked for an update on the Sony/EMI situation. Apparently, Sony was hitting a wall with EMI. That was all we had to hear. We begged him to get us out of the Sony deal and go with Warner’s. We let Mo step up to the plate, and in one phone call to his old friend who ran EMI, we were off that label and signed with Mo. And we were ready to record the greatest record we could make.
The reason this is such a cool story it that it illustrates perfectly a principle that I’ve believed in and tried to practice my whole life, and that is that you’ll get a lot further in life by genuinely caring about and helping other people than you will by trying to get something out of them.
Or put another way, that in the grand scheme of things, giving is always more rewarding than receiving.
A rich life is lived from a giving heart not a selfish mind.
Personally, I’ve had many rewards and opportunities come my way, both in my personal and my business life, as a result of going out of my way to be kind and helpful to people. Not with an expectation of getting something in return, but only because I believe it’s the right thing to do.
I believe that’s the right way to live one’s life.
And besides, it feels good to me.
And I know from personal experience how living with this mindset can bring happiness and success to many areas of your life.
Unfortunately though, not everyone sees things this way. In fact, many people have quite an opposite view.
The conventional thinking in some circles, like some business people, politicians, and other “power players”, for example, is that to be successful in any endeavor or area of life, you have to be ruthless and aggressive. If you want something, you have to go out there and take it. By hook or by crook.
Regardless of whose toes you step on.
People that are ruthless and aggressive certainly seem to more often than not get things their own way. As do spoilt kids, right?
But what about all the opportunities they miss out on in their life by choosing to follow that mindset?
Nobody really sees that.
Look at it this way. If you were to cheat, mislead, take advantage of, or use someone in some way, how likely do you think it would be for them to ever deal with you again? How likely do you think it would be for them to ever lift a finger in the future to help you?
Not likely, right?
Sure, there will always be a lot of new people out there to associate with, work with, or get something from. So what difference is one person going to make?
Well, the fact is, you never know where opportunities can come from and how valuable they can be to you.
Ruthless, self-centered people foolishly only value those that they see they can benefit from in some way, or get something out of. They have no problem using or stepping on someone, or disassociating from them, if they’re of no apparent use to them. And they rest easy at night believing that absolutely nothing is lost in doing so.
But of course that’s just immature, narrow-minded thinking. Very much like a child who only thinks about instant gratification in the moment, and doesn’t worry at all about tomorrow.
Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ``What's in it for me?``
As the story earlier illustrates, great opportunities can often be created where none even seem to exist. So you never know.
To burn bridges with people is to shut out potential opportunities. It’s always a great loss, whether you realize it or not.
The bottom line is that using someone for your benefit might serve you well in the short term, but at the end of the day nothing will erode your potential for success and happiness quite as much.
But of course, it’s still possible to be assertive and purposeful in your life, without being so extreme and selfish about it. I mean, you can work hard, focus on getting ahead and achieving whatever it is you want to achieve, but without using others or doing the wrong thing by them, right?
Surely there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
Absolutely, that’s true enough. And in fact, this is how most people live their lives.
They focus primarily on themselves, their own life and their own progress, but are pretty ethical about it. By and large they don’t screw anyone over, and they don’t cheat, lie or steal. So they don’t get anyone off side or make any enemies.
They might even form alliances or partnerships with other people to work together in some endeavor, to the mutual benefit of them both. Which is great.
But they don’t necessarily go out of their way to help others either, unless of course there’s something in it for them. After all, they have their own problems to worry about.
That’s fair enough. But the pity here is that once again, with this mindset no one is ever going to go out of their way to help you or offer you an opportunity either. Not without something in return.
No one is going to be watching out for you, or taking a personal interest in your personal success.
On the other hand, when your focus is on your own progress in life but also on caring about and helping others whenever you can, just because, it generates a collective desire in others to return the goodwill.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Not because they feel like they owe you one. Rather, because they become emotionally invested in your success. People feel good about helping someone they feel deserves success, and better still, who they feel has their own best interests at heart.
It’s only natural.
Think about the story I described earlier. Warner and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were in a business relationship, and despite the disappointment of missing out on signing the band, Warner took the time to congratulate them on their new deal and wish them well just the same.
With a rival recording company!
That was clearly a genuine gesture of goodwill. After all, there was nothing to be gained from it, the band had already signed with Sony/Epic.
But as it turned out, that goodwill created a massive and unexpected opportunity for Warner. Out of nothing. And the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were happy to sign to a contract worth over a million dollars less shows just how much they valued that goodwill.
That’s pretty powerful stuff.
You must never underestimate the value of genuine goodwill and kindness towards someone.
Often times, people you haven’t even helped directly will feel the same way and also be invested in your success. Because they can see what kind of person you are and they too will feel that you deserve to be successful.
But of course, not everyone that you show kindness towards will necessarily reciprocate the love. And that’s OK.
Because if you’re truly genuine about caring about someone and helping them, you’re not expecting anything in return, right?
So there can be no disappointments, can there?
If you find that someone does disappoint you, it’s because you had expectations and they were dashed. That’s a dead giveaway that you’re not being genuine.
That your heart’s not in the right place.
Your focus is on what you can get out of someone, and not on what you can contribute to them, as it should be.
You can’t fake kindness. Not for long, anyhow.
It won’t let you.
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.
If being a benevolent person doesn’t come naturally to you, it doesn’t mean that it never will. Anyone can change their attitude and their thinking.
For some people, it can happen suddenly. Through a tragedy, a near-death experience, or an illness, for example. Or any situation that gives them pause to think about what really is important in life.
For others, it just takes time.
But there’s nothing quite as fulfilling and rewarding in life, in many ways, than to have people around you who are passionate about championing your success.
That’s how true happiness and success is achieved.