The Extraordinary Reward for Altruism

“Perhaps the greatest joy is having the ability to see solutions to the problems of others. Altruism is the cement of a group. That is why nature has established such a reward for it.”

I was inspired to write this post based on two articles I read in the Sunday Times. One written by Luke Johnson and the other by Lord Browne; both articles were in the business section.

Johnson, under the title: ‘The true mother of invention is optimism’, says that the majority of innovation and invention comes from the population at large rather than the few. The Culture and needs of the society drive invention.

However, he also states that mankind has developed a capacity to imagine terrible outcomes as an insurance so that we can avoid threats and disasters. This sort of thinking is led by so called experts who are almost invariably wrong. Those who are prepared to take the risk will be successful and have a better quality of life.

He further states that most entrepreneurs say that if they knew the challenges they would have to overcome, they would not have started their business. I doubt that this is true of true entrepreneurs. Those who are truly successful love the day to day challenge of the workplace. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs have had significant failures along the way. This happens so much that it is a cliché in all motivational books. For example: Thomas Edison; “I have not failed, I have just discovered 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

It Is important to look at problems in life as an exciting challenge. As long as the source of the problem arises from a moral and ethical endeavour. Developing the ability to enjoy what others regard as a problem is the key to success. A problem is a puzzle which needs a solution. There are very many of us who just love to be given such a challenge. Extremely successful consultancies have grown out of peoples’ fears of failure or inability to properly interpret a situation.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do you like to help others when asked? It is one of the joys of life to be trusted enough to be asked to offer help but perhaps the greatest joy is having the ability to see solutions to the problems of others. Altruism is the cement of a group. That is why nature has established such a reward for it.

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There is no better feeling than having helped someone. This is a powerful and very basic emotion in our repertoire of emotions. Its power is explained in that it protects the species.

The article by Lord Browne about his manifesto to heal the rift between business and society, developed this theme. It was depressing to read the views of a businessman of such long standing; five decades, talk of the bad reputation of merchants down through history.

His manifesto calls for integration of societal and environmental considerations into decision making at all levels in business.

So what has this to do with a self-improvement blog? It simply develops the point of altruism. Many of the most successful companies which have been in existence a century and a half or more were deeply committed to the welfare of staff and society. Cadbury, Rowntree and Unilever, for example.

Recent studies have shown that companies which engage externally have a boost in profits of up to 30%. If a company were to focus on such social concerns simply to boost profits, they would fail.

Altruism cannot be false, just as any other emotion, such as love or success cannot be. When it is an intention behind every policy and decision, it fosters success in an organisation.

A business which provides excellent staff relations, customer service and has a focus on public benefit, will thrive.

Just recently I went to visit an old friend who lives in a house which has a drive of over 100 yards long. This poor very old man has had a stroke but being highly motivated he has made a reasonable recovery.

When I stopped by he was putting out his refuse for the next day. As I left I  took the bins and pushed them to the road. I drove away feeling a little buzz of the reward for altruism and pleased that I had been there at the right time.

While I was driving away, little did I know that he was struggling to return the bins from where I took them, probably cursing my interference! He had a special arrangement with the collector that he leave them there.

Forgiveness is another very powerful human capacity!

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Also published on Medium.