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Career Advice

If You Want to Be Rich, See People


Be the most present person in the room.

“Have you always been cool?”

“That depends on your definition, Michael. 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 being heard. I want them to know that I see them. If that makes me cool, then I’ll take it.”

I had the privilege to spend time with Denise Smith Young, recognized by Fortune as one of the most powerful women in the tech and the former Chief HR VP 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 my phone finally rang, I had the 7 questions I wanted to ask her firmly implanted in my head.

An hour later, when we said our good-bye’s, I realized I hadn’t asked Denise any of the questions I’d had in mind.

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….”

As an African-American woman in Silicon Valley, Denise has been a first, and she’s been an only.

Despite barely knowing each other, I understood immediately what made Denise so attractive and influential: Through her words, and through her actions, she took a shy guy in small-town Spain and she 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 another way….. 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 to discover their own way. This can’t happen, however, if you aren’t doing everything in your power to truly see the people around you.

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. How did that make you feel?

Think back to the last time someone really saw you. How did that make you feel?

As individuals, we all want different things. But at our core, we all love when we are acknowledged. Being seen fuels us. It 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.

You change the world by seeing people.

It’s also how you become cool.

If you enjoyed this, I have more here.