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Career Advice

If You Want to Be Rich, See People


“Have you always been cool?”

“That depends on your definition. But growing up I remember how empowered I felt when other people took the time to truly see me. I want to do that for others. I want them to know that their voice is heard. I want them to know that I see them. If that makes me cool, then I’ll take it.”

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Denise Young Smith, recognized by Fortune as one of the most powerful women in the tech and the former Chief of Human Resources of Apple.

Denise and I had been going back and forth for a few weeks trying to find some time to get to know each other when we first came on each other’s radar. When my phone finally rang for our first conversation, I had a list of questions I wanted to ask her directly in front of me.

An hour later, when we said our goodbyes, I realized I’d only had a chance to ask her one or two.

This wasn’t because she dominated the conversation. Nor was it because she went on and on about herself. It’s because throughout our conversation she continually put the focus on me — “I’m curious, Michael….” “I’m interested, Michael….”

Despite barely knowing each other, I understood immediately what made Denise so attractive and influential: Through her words, and her actions, she took a shy guy in small-town Spain and made him feel like he was on the cover of Rolling Stone.

True to her intentions, Denise made me feel truly seen.

Be the most helpful person in the room

Everywhere we turn we’re told to be confident, stay persistent, and do better. That’s one way to look at it. But there’s arguably an easier way.

Be the person who builds other people’s confidence.

Be the person who encourages others to stay persistent.

Be the person who helps others to get better.

You don’t have to know what you’re passionate about to make a difference in the world. And you certainly don’t need to have your entire life mapped out.

Listen to people. Let people feel your attention. Do what you can to lift them up.

The best way to find your own path is by doing what you can to help others discover theirs. This will never happen though if you aren’t doing everything in your power to truly see the people around you.

After all, it’s hard to be poor, if you’re making the lives of others rich.

Be the person who truly sees other people

When learning about the lives of successful people, one common theme sticks out: they make a conscious decision to stand out. They see everyone else huddled around the center and they say to themselves, “Hey, that’s not for me. I’m gonna go stand over there instead. There’s more room to dance.”

It used to be hard to stand out. But it’s not anymore. With just a glance around you’ll quickly see what’s holding everyone’s attention.

Heads down and phones out — most people prioritize dings and rings over the person in front of them.

Use this great distraction to your advantage. Dig in with people. Zero in on what lights them up.

People will never consider you valuable if you don’t first take the time to understand what they value.

Think back to the last time someone truly listened to you and sit with how that made you feel

Think back to the last time someone really saw you and sit with how that made you feel.

As individuals, we all want different things. But at our core, we all love to be acknowledged as being seen fuels us and gives us life.

Generosity; attentiveness; thoughtfulness — these are the words of the truly rich.

Today everyone is racing towards the most important title — Vice President of this and Startup founder of that.

If this exhausts you, bow out. Let other people run. Walk slowly instead. Be the person who wakes up each day excited to meet a new someone and learn a new something. Be the most curious person in the room. Be the person who chases the most coveted title among the truly rich — a good friend

One conversation at a time. 

One smile at a time. 

One supportive gesture at a time.

If you want to be rich, see people.

It’s also how you become cool.