The Good Word  

The Cycle of Service
March 2000

For many years I have recommended the following motto to myself and others:

"Provide more and better service to more people."

This is a very useful organizing principle that help you maximize your contributions in life, as well as your compensation from the other participants.  After looking at the cycle of service, it will be useful to consider a new perspective on money.

This diagram recognizes that in every given situation there is ordinarily a "giver" and a "receiver."  For purposes of this discussion it will be most helpful if you think of yourself as the giver, with others being the receiver(s).  You, of course, provide value or service to others; and they in turn provide compensation to you.

There are four potential points for you to focus on in this cycle.  The point that dominates your life will have a lot to do with your happiness and prosperity.

1.  This is the most common focal point because it is near at hand, and gratifies our self absorption.  Some usual sentiments are:

If you are measuring your contribution at this point, you are the only one who is measuring your contribution at this point.  Quite frankly, no one, except maybe your mother, cares how hard you are working.  For that matter, your problems are of little concern to others.  You can hardly expect them to be thinking much about your effort while they are preoccupied with their own.

4.  This point is probably the second most common focus.  Again, it is driven by self.

Measuring here tends to focus on poverty and lack.  Actually, it makes a lot of perverse sense when coupled with the first focus.  Getting your mind on yourself, your hard work and your inadequate income are a sure fire formula for misery.  Many people go through life, as Thoreau said, living lives of "quiet desperation."

3.  This focus is a slight step beyond "1" and "4".  At least it is a recognition that "others" are the source of your sustenance:

Lot's of folks who decide to "do better" get stuck here.  Their focus is on how to get more, and they know where the compensation comes from.  But they just can't seem to figure out how to break open the door of prosperity.

2.  This is the correct point upon which to focus.  The question is not what you are getting, but what are you giving?  And the giving must be measured at the point where it is received, not on your giving.  That is, it doesn't matter how hard you are working, what matters is what results are you creating for others.

Let's consider an example:  Suppose you are a singer, and you enjoy belting them out in the shower.  Maybe you like it.  Maybe no one else likes it.

But, on the other hand, suppose that others really do like it.  You might study and develop your talent and enjoy a bit of success by performing for this or that group.  You may receive payment in cash or psychic satisfaction.  But if you are either very ambitious or very selfless, you may seek to expand the value you deliver by reaching more people.  You might appear on broadcasts, make recordings, and ultimately enhance the lives of millions.  Psychic satisfaction is personal.  The cash could be in the millions of dollars per year.

But a performance in Hollywood Bowl may require no more exertion than your roaring in the shower.  It is not the level of your effort that counts, it is the value delivered.

Delivering Value
But delivering value is not necessarily an easy thing.  In a well developed free enterprise economic system, many of the very best and most creative minds in society are bent to finding the needs of their fellows and meeting those needs.  Sometimes we say that every itch is being scratched.  However, you know how itches are.  Often there is an opportunity to get just a little more satisfaction in the scratch.  That is why there is such an incredible bounty of wealth in a free enterprise system.  Striving, striving, striving.  Always striving to meet the need of the "other" just a little better, just a little more efficiently.  It is also why free enterprise and Christianity are so compatible.  The service motif is dominant in Christianity, and free enterprise rewards service bountifully.

None of this denies that non-monetary, psychic rewards can be valuable.  But the apostle James comments negatively on those who offer psychic-only compensation to the poor and needy.  It is money and its equivalents that are most needed.

Trading in People
Just as many have a poor understanding of the service cycle, many have a poor understanding of money - hence its scarcity for them.

First, it is important to recognize that money is an equivalent for people.  For example, when you go down to the store and buy something, let's say a new stereo, you may have been laboring under the illusion that the money you paid was for the stereo.  Wrong!  The stereo really doesn't care about your money, at all.  Notice carefully and you will see that it is the clerk you pass the money to.  In fact, some small portion of the money will pay the clerk for serving you.  Other portions will go to the stocker who put the stereo on the display shelf, to the manager of the store, to the owner of the store, to the truck driver who brought the stereo, to the shipping clerk who put it in the truck at the plant or warehouse, to the worker who put it in a cardboard shipping container, to the person who made the corrugated board for the shipping container, and to the logger who cut the tree to make the box, etc., etc., etc.  You get the idea.  Money is an exchange for services!

If you couple this observation with the cycle above, you will understand that you receive money in exchange for service received by the others you serve.  You then use the money to obtain the services of others.  Money is a convenient equivalent for people.

Knowing this, you can be pretty sure that if someone doesn't have any money, they are expecting others to serve them to at least the extent they serve others.  If they are in debt, they are taking more than they are giving (regardless of how hard they are working).  However, if they have an excess of money, it means they have delivered more value or service than they have themselves received.  They are giving more than they are taking.

Once this principle is understood, one understands that people who think they need money or things it will buy, rarely do.  First of all they need to have new attitudes about money.  And secondly, an opportunity to provide service.  Free enterprise maximizes this opportunity.

 Your friend, Herb Sorensen