How to really Make America Great (Again): Develop an other-centered focus

This post was originally published in November 2015. It was updated on January 20, 2017: Trump’s inauguration day and the day of the #J20 Art Strike. In the original post, I wrote about “candidate Trump,” barely able to imagine that today I’d be talking about President Trump.

It’s easy to fall into the bloodless ambition of cause-and-effect salesmanship:

If I pull this lever, it will hit this button in my customer’s psyche, and they will give me money.

We become mechanical engineers trying to make Customer #27 function properly by buying that new widget we just launched.

We peer at our columns of data—at people—and tip our heads thoughtfully, trying to figure out a way to get more out of them.

Until you stop.

And from that point on, business becomes about more than manipulation and sales. It becomes about your story, your message, about bettering the world we live in and leaving a mark.

It moves away from Me and becomes about Us.

First, Some Inspiration . . .

One way to strengthen other-centered awareness in our lives is by acting on the brave hunger to pursue a cause.

The reaction to a Trump presidency shines a bright light on how much being engaged with purpose matters to today’s consumers and to Americans at large. Big voices, small voices, we are ignited—and unity is created.

In the video above, Casey Gerald beautifully articulates in his stirring and inspirational speech for CreativeMornings New York the importance of contributing and approaching business from a mindset of widespread change:

“[As a capitalist society] the only time we got to a solution [to a major world problem]—whether it was ending child labor in Britain or ending slavery in the United States, was when there’s been a social awakening….

“And that’s where you come in. If there is a question burning in your mind, if there is a problem that just won’t let you go, if there’s a system so broken that it makes you want to cry, if there’s a friend or a stranger whose pain has become your own, if there is a gift that you have… then you have found your why. And you hold one spark to the next great awakening. And thank God you do.

“Because I believe in the very core of my being that Baltimore will not sleep and Charleston will not heal, the seas will not stop rising, and the poor and the weak will not get a fair shot until a dying world is shaken from its slumber.”

Consider us shaken, Casey.

Greed disguised as altruism

Does having these principles mean that I’ve walked away from lucrative deals? Yes. Or more honestly: avoided them.

Many people with heavy purses and poor social agendas are draining. They are often bullies, greedy yet penny-pinching, and just plain miserable to work with.

Sadly, some may be driven to turn their social pursuits into a form of greed—to use altruism as a feed for their narcissism.

Consider, for instance, a certain presidential candidate who made big claims about social change and making something great again, but only as an extension of his own ego and reputation, the way the world around him perceives him. His agenda was muddy from the get-go.

Now that blowhard has actually been elected.

Will his altruism, humility, and patriotism ring false? The stories are already rolling out: immediately wiped pages on LGBT rights, civil rights, climate change, and health care from its “issues” section after Donald Trump took the oath of office. [The Daily Beast]

An hour after Donald Trump assumed the presidency Friday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development indefinitely suspended a pending rate cut for mortgage insurance required for FHA-backed home loans. The move — one of the first acts of his presidency — reverses a policy announced in the waning days of the Obama administration that would have trimmed payments for borrowers by hundreds of dollars a year. [Los Angeles Times]

“He’s not going to be that concerned with the actual competent administration of the government,” [Trump biographer Michael] D’Antonio said. “It’s going to be what he seems to be gaining or losing in public esteem. So almost like a monarch. The figurehead who rallies people and gets credit for things.” [Politico]

How can I adopt other-centeredness?

An effective other-centered business cares deeply and consistently about people—whether it’s customers, employees, vendors, neighbors, even competitors. An other-centered business has an awareness of the community. It acts. It interacts.

It might be celebrating the gratitude of a child in the hospital who receives a toy you donated from a percentage of sales during the holidays. Or choosing gorgeous yet sustainable packaging offered by a neighboring company to help build the local economy. Or even sharing a joke across social media to brighten people’s afternoons.

Those little expressions of humanity don’t appear in your bank account, but they do add tremendous value to your life and to the breadth of your business’s message.

What if I already own a business?

You shift your existing business’s focus from what it does / produces to what it does / produces for the world around it.

Operating a business with a conscience doesn’t mean you have to chase down poachers in Africa or camp out in a tent, giving up your every convenience. It means that you’re mindful of how your business impacts the happiness and wellbeing of others, and that you uphold those goals as a business owner and entrepreneur. You make them part of the fabric of how you run and grow your business.


Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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