“What can you do for me” is not always a bad question.


Another “i made this comment” post, but as I remember I do usually never read comments I think this is useful. ;) I am behind reading a lot of blogs, but I was just skimming some of Tara’s articles and found the nice “The Gift“.

It reflects a lot of what I am interested in as well as do, although you might think differently of me when you read my posts or meet me. But basically I am a nice person. Really. *g*.

But from the start. While I am a strong individual, I am really interested in making things work for others and help out. And I do not see that there is any bias in that, it may just not be the way we are used to see somebody “do something for the greater good”. Which is where the comment on the post comes in.

Tara is speaking about how much giving out is much more enriching, and commenter Kerry Nitz refers to this:

This reminds me of the (no longer respectable) economist/sociologist Werner Sombart:The trader approaches life with the question, what can you give me? . . . The hero approaches life with the question what can I give you? Sombart goes on to point out that the trader’s approach implies that she is poor, whether the hero’s approach implies that she is rich.

To which my answer basically is:

The human is much too complex to be reduced to one way of being “rich”. What most of us are doing with investing time, passion and energy in projects we believe in is not what traditionals see as “society work” but it is.

I remember a talk with a teacher once who was puzzled by my test results on a career decision test because I ‘failed’ miserable for everything which had to do with “do good for society stuff”. Simple. I have no interest in contributing “to society” as it was defined by their definition, meaning going to a home for elderly people and nurse them, doing social work, go and ‘enriches’ society by giving up myself for the community. But only in a very very limited sphere.

I dread that and the results marked that. Still I am one of the first person to help people – in my areas of interest as well as expertise.

Could I be more “generous” and do it everywhere? Sure. But you do not want help from me in regarding anything like cooking because it would be a waste of both of our times. So why should I?

By that definition I am a trader. But – I rather give something useful than just give anything. “In which way are you useful to me” does not imply just me being the person taking. It means to me also being the person judging you as well and making a wise decision about wasting your time, energy and passion or not.

Shall I ask person a to give me / help me with something which they will struggle with or do I ask person b who can do what I need in their sleep?

Do I just mindlessly offer my help, or should I offer help especially in those areas where I excel and do them good?

I do believe I should pay attention to “what can you give me” and then make a wise decision from that on.

As I said, this is not just black or white.

I ask myself all the time “what can this do for me” but you would be mistaken to believe that it is about being greedy – for me that is more about structuring and sorting, ordering and making connections in my head.

Although I do not say it, this “what can you do for me which is also along the lines of what you love to do and how do I not waste our time / energy and everything” is implied. *I* need to know what you can do for me, what you can do in general before I am able to bring you together with other people or bring other people to you. This “what can you do for me” also means “how are you structured? Could we work on something crazy?”.

“Me” in this sense does refer to “making sense of you in regard of me”, to place you in my mind, to put you into a place – and then work from there.

But you may not know this when you just encounter me. It was said in my yearbook for my high school degree “Nicole likes to repeat what others have already said and likes to help other” with an addition of “others should take her as an example for that”.

Which is a very good description of myself. I have a miserable memory (hei! I am good at filtering information quick, that does not work with memorizing everything) and I like to help people. Especially developers of applications I like probably can “sing a song of it” like we call it in german. Most of the relationships started with “I tried your application / service, and here is a list of things I would like to see / you should care more attention about / this is a bug” etc.

Not that I expect them to implement this or just make me happy. I am satisfied when I can see they understood my point and why I said this. Only if I am really interested or want something, I will insist. But other than that, I am happy to help out.

And it is a well known fact that this kind of pay it forward (which as an idea is not new) does give you back something, though most often not directly where you gave it. And that is great.

It just does not mean that there is only one way to do it. I can make the world a better place. But on my terms, on my talents – and that is going to be so much more than it would be if I would obey to what current society as a general thinks is “improving society”.


One Response to ““What can you do for me” is not always a bad question.”

  1. Kerry Nitz says:

    Which goes back to my point. The hero asks: what can I give. Note the first part – you must first ask what you have to give. By giving what you do best rather than what society generally labels as ‘altruistic behaviour’ you are being a hero and not a trader in my view. The trader first asks what can you give me – your comments suggest that you don’t hold yourself back from giving because you don’t expect a return from it.