Of Self & Others


It's a sunny Saturday afternoon, you sit down across from the salesman to buy a new car. The young salesman sits across from you with a salamander smile and says, "I'm so excited that you're here today! It's the end of the month and I need to get my sales quota."

He asks you a couple quick questions regarding your financial status, then slides over a sales form for a new top of the line luxury car and hands you a pen.

You're thinking... WTF?!?

How do you feel about this guy right now? How likely are you to buy from this joker? Whose needs is concerned about, his or yours?

How persuasive do you think he is going to be?

Yep, you guessed it, not very!

Meanwhile, somewhere across the city in a glass citadel, an employee for MassCorp sits in her cubicle working on a team project... only she's the sole person working on it. Her team members dumped all the work on her. Her phone rings, "Hey babe, you coming home for dinner?"

"No, I have to stay late again." she says, with some anxiousness.

"The kids are asking about you. You haven't seen them all week again and I miss you."

"I told you that I'd have to work hard to be considered for the partnership," she says a bit annoyed.

"I know, but when we decided to get back together we both agreed to do things differently this time," he said with an edge.

"Oh, it's not like you don't have some days where you have to stay late at your job," she quickly fires back.

"I'm not trying to start a fight. It's just we've fallen back into our same routine that we were in before. We barely see one another, the kids seem to only see us argue. I'm at my wits end and don't know exactly what to do."

"Once we get the car paid off and finally pay off that credit card we can relax a bit," she say optimistically.

"You know how many times we've told ourselves that?!" he blurts out suddenly, a little surprised at how much was behind the statement.

"You were the one who "needed" that vacation in Mexico. I wanted to do a staycation, but you said getting away would be good for our relationship," she shot back quickly.

"As if that actually helped," she added sarcastically under her breath.

Both situations are dealing with the person not seeing a bigger picture. They are focusing too much on them selves in very different ways. In the first example, the salesperson really didn't care about their customer. The only thing he really cared about was his own needs.

In the other example, the woman was being selfish as well, only in a very different way. It probably didn't feel that way to her. She most likely felt conflicted and unclear regarding her priorities and her identity. She may have been hiding in her career to avoid facing other deeper issues that she didn't want to or didn't know how to drill down into yet.

I can identify with each of these people to varying degrees. There have been times where I have only thought about my own needs AND I have also immersed myself in other activities, such as work to put up a smoke screen so I didn't have to face other issues.

It is easy to get wrapped up in our own shit. Sometimes like the car salesman it is overt; other times it may not be as easy to see. Over the years I have busied myself with a large array of things to distract myself from my baggage. Some of my travels and obsessions were and are legit, I do advocate living a full life and I tend to work & play hard. I have gained a bit more balance as I've gotten older (no comments from the peanut gallery out there... hahaha!! =), but I'm still working on it.

It's easy to externalize things. It's funny how some days everyone ELSE is driving like an idiot! After the twelfth asshole driver cuts me off, I realize that I'm probably the real asshole and I should breathe, relax, get to my destination, eat a snickers bar and chill for a few.

The bottom line is life is about self and others. If we don't take care of ourselves, it's difficult to help others. Not to mention we often create or are part of the problem ourselves.

Remember it's not ONLY about us. As a matter of fact it's "a little bit" more about others. Meaning most of us will watch out a little more for others. Will protect others over ourselves, but don't forget the shirt:

I believe human nature is like this... We're a little slanted toward others... but only a LITTLE! It's easy to be selfish, so be careful. It's not uncommon to put our own needs in front of others, especially when we are overwhelmed, fearful, in an environment like a relationship or society that is unhealthy (especially reflecting poor leadership), etc. This is true on the big stuff as well as the little things.

Here, Dr. Robert Humphrey shares a story from his experience in WWII while on Iwo Jima. It reflects this this same concept regarding self and others. He calls it the "Dual Life Value." His view also supports that we are slanted by our innate nature to be "a little bit" more for others than for ourselves. 

Iwo Jima Stories
The Dual-Life Value
I took over my platoon in a protected area. Men were walking around. They were a experienced, confident group who had been involved in the fighting at the top of Mount Suribachi--site of the famous flag raising.

One young man was especially noticeable, carrying an unusual Thompson submachine gun. He oozed self-confidence and independence. After chow that first evening, as he perfected his foxhole, he started declaring to himself in a loud voice: "I don't volunteer for nothin' else! Screw the Marine Corps! Screw Mount Suribachi! Screw everything except ol' number one! That's all that counts: gettin' off this island alive! I don't volunteer for nothin'!"

He shouted it so repeatedly that a couple of the other men picked it up. "Yeah! Right! We don't volunteer for nothing!" Suddenly it dawned on me that they were obliquely speaking to me, their new platoon leader. I felt the chill of having my leadership threatened.

The next morning, as we prepared to edge out of our positions, a message came down from higher headquarters. As luck would have it, I was being ordered to send a volunteer out onto a hill in front of us on a sure-death reconnaissance mission. Hesitant to ask for volunteers after what I had heard the night before, I announced that I, myself would go. I made the excuse that, since I was new, I wanted to see the terrain. No sooner had I spoken, than the same Marine who had made the declarations the previous night said, "No, I'll go, Lieutenant."

"What!" I exclaimed. "you were the one with the big mouth saying that you never volunteer for anything!"
Almost sheepishly trying to cover his willingness to take my place, he answered, "Well, I just can't trust any of these other jarheads on such a mission."
In my rifle platoon, two of the teenage Marines had "stressed-out" after 34 of their 40 man platoon had been shot in the first five days. The two were no longer staying alert. I warned them that the Japanese would soon sneak into their fox holes, beat them to a shot and kill them. They did not respond. I raged at them, repeatedly, with the same warning about their impending death. It still did not work.
One of the platoon's wiser young riflemen, son of a Texas rancher, advised me quietly that I was telling the men the wrong thing. He said, "Tell them, Lieutenant, that the Japanese will get past them and kill us others." To my shock, that worked.
Adapted from "Values For A New Millennium"
by Robert L. Humphrey

Our human nature can sometimes be confusing. How can we sometimes be so selfish and other times selfless? We have many examples of both of these. Both Jack Hoban and Dr. Humphrey ask, what value is held higher in culture? The person who saves himself (the survivor) or the person who saves others (the hero)?

Being a student of history and anthropology myself, I have read many stories about both survivors and hero's. Cultures from around the world hold survivors in high esteem. There are many survivor stories ancient and modern. Heck, now-a-days there are shows about it. As a matter of fact, there's one I'm sure you've heard of, (not so) ironically, it's called "Survivor."

That said, there are many, many MORE stories telling the HERO's tale.

It doesn't matter what culture you look at, they all have more hero stories than that of survival. Hero stories, stories where people put the needs of others over their own. Stories both ancient and modern.

This phenomenon point to humans placing more value on others above that of self.

I can hear you say it already... The but's... "But Craig... I heard... My uncle knows someone... I had a friend... What about criminals? Sociopaths? Politicians, lawyers & salespeople? =)  Terrorists?!? Surely these people are more about themselves than others!?"

Yes, you are right, there are some people, who some of the time are more about themselves. Not to mention the selflessness that people exhibit is often only shown for those in their own "Tribe." This is why we must expand our "tribal identity."


"Today's world requires that we accept the oneness of humanity. In the past, isolated communities could afford to think of one another as fundamentally separate and even existed in total isolation. Nowadays, however, events in one part of the world eventually affect the entire planet. Therefore we have to treat each major local problem as a global concern from the moment it begins. We can no longer invoke the national, racial or ideological barriers that separate us without destructive repercussion. In the context of our new interdependence, considering the interests of others is clearly the best form of self-interest.

I view this fact as a source of hope. The necessity for cooperation can only strengthen mankind, because it helps us recognize that the most secure foundation for the new world order is not simply broader political and economic alliances, but rather I each individual's genuine practice of love and compassion. For a better, happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brother- and sisterhood."

~ The Dalai Lama


I find it interesting that you can see the effect of your decisions. When you do something that is most good/least harm for everyone you tend to not have to justify your decision. It feels right, it feels good. Whereas after doing something that was self serving in a negative way toward others may feel good in the moment, but we tend to justify our actions after the fact. Often the more justification that is involved, the more off base the action was.

That is not a hard rule, just a guideline.

Doing the right thing doesn't need near the justification that doing the selfish thing does.

So, there you have it, some wise words from some wise people... and then the stuff I wrote! ;-)

Keep going folks!

All the best,


  1. Short little re-cap of Milgram's experiment you brought up in class. There's a fictionalized version on Netflix now too.


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