We have all seen someone in need and thought, “I could help them, but that’s not my job.” It’s human nature. People usually look after themselves before they think to help someone else. While that seems to be the way of things, I’d like to argue that in a lot of cases (but not all), acting in your self interest is actually not in your self interest. I read about a good example of that today on Lifehacker. In the article, Derek Sivers told the story of how when he was at the Berklee College of Music, he bought a pizza for an executive at BMI. Derek had overheard that the executive had expected that there would be food and so hadn’t eaten lunch. The executive was then confronted with a two hour class and nothing to eat. At least until the pizzas that Derek ordered were unexpectedly delivered. Grateful for the thoughtfulness of Derek’s gesture, the BMI executive offered his card to Derek and the invitation to call him anytime. If Derek had acted only in his self interest, he would have skipped on buying the pizza and in actuality would have acted in a way that was not in his best self interest because he wouldn’t have made that connection with someone who ended up taking a large part in starting Derek’s career.
While the way the article was written made the move seem calculated by Derek, I think his motives were probably pure. There was no reason for him to believe that he would get anything in return for his kindness. Plus, he bought pizza for the rest of the class as well and they certainly weren’t going to be doing anything for him. A calculated move can work also, but acts that aren’t motivated by gain usually work better. People can see through people with ulterior motives and don’t hold them in the same regard.
That’s why I believe in karma as a mode to networking. It works. Do good things for people. Do it because it makes you feel good about yourself and because it helps people. In that moment, you’ll be better for it and one day it might come back to you in a way that you never expected.