Zig Was Right

You can get anything you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.

~ Zig Ziglar

This is a classic quote from legendary speaker Zig Ziglar that I have been aware of for several years.  While I have always understood what Zig was saying in this quote, I never really got it until this week, when I was awarded my first voice over job.

The experience was an “ah-ha” moment for me.  I wasn’t awarded the job because I had a better voice than anyone else who auditioned.  (I’m not bad, but I’m no Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones!)  The reason I was selected for this job is because I was helpful to the client.

The audition notes stated that the client would be open to suggestions for improving the script.  Since they asked, I made some changes to the script, which caused it to read better, without changing the spirit of their message, and submitted my audition.  When I was awarded the job, the client mentioned they liked that I had taken the time to make changes to the script and liked how it now read.  It felt good to be awarded the job, but it felt even better to know that I added value to the client’s project.  I felt good knowing that I had helped them.

This experience reminded me of Zig’s quote and the truth behind the principle of being helpful and useful to others first, rather than first seeking what we want and what we can get for ourselves.

Where in your life do you have opportunities to be helpful to others?  I’m not talking being helpful in a manipulative way, where you expect something in return.  I’m talking about offering your skills and talent to others to help them with their struggles and challenges.  Begin looking for opportunities to be helpful to those around you.  Not only will it make you feel good and benefit those you’re helping, you’ll most likely find that others will be eager to help you get what you want as well.

Are You Open to New Thoughts?

Have you ever encountered a fact that aligns perfectly with something you strongly believe?  I have.  And when I do, I usually am left thinking how great the author of the particular thought is.  It’s a different story when we hear a fact that is completely contrary to, or pokes holes in, a strongly held belief or opinion we possess.  We are likely to reject the information as a weak argument or as being outright false.  Why is that?  Is it just human nature, or is there more to it than that?  The answer is… “Yes”.

It’s called “Confirmation Bias”, and we all suffer from it. Confirmation Bias means that we tend to believe facts and ideas that support our opinions, and discount or completely disregard any facts that do not.  It makes sense when you think about it.  When we hold a strong belief or opinion about something, we’re not going to be super-eager to accept someone else’s idea that is contrary to our own.  Instead, we look for things that support what we believe, because we don’t want to be considered wrong in a belief we hold.

The concern with Confirmation Bias is that if we’re not aware of it, our thinking can become narrow, thus limiting our potential for growth and understanding of new thoughts and ideas.  If we are totally resistant to hearing any new thought that is contrary to our own, our thinking becomes stagnant and we severely limit our existence to the small world of our never-expanding beliefs and opinions.

How can we cause something to happen in our lives so that Confirmation Bias does not restrict us to the pre-determined parameters of our current beliefs and opinions?   Here are some ideas:

  1. Be aware of the existence of this bias as you go through you daily life and begin to be mindful of when you may be reacting to it.
  2. Learn to become open to hearing and considering the “other side” of an argument.  This doesn’t mean that you have to jettison your current beliefs in favor of what the other person is saying.  But at least be open to hearing contradictory facts and beliefs and in order to make informed decisions about what you believe and why you believe it.  Who knows?  You may even be exposed to a new idea that supports further supports your current belief.
  3. Be curious and growth minded.  Become interested in the beliefs of others any specifically why they hold those beliefs.  You may not agree with their belief, or even the reason that they hold it.  However, you will come away with a greater understanding of the person and what motivates their currently held opinions.  This is a key step to productive and meaningful communication.  Not to mention, it’s just fun to do!

Start today to be aware of Confirmation Bias, and how it shapes our beliefs and the beliefs of those we interact with.  By doing so, you’ll be increasing your ability understand and relate to those around you on a deeper level.