Three Good Reasons Not to Be Selfless (and Three Better Reasons to Be Selfless Anyway)

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In Seth Adam Smith's latest book, he talks about the value of selflessness in a world that is focused on pleasing only the self. There are other books like this but none with the humor and frank confessions found in Seth's writing (not to mention his thoroughly imperfect and anything but holier -than-thou persona).

Being selfless is a pain. Why do it? Seth presents below three good reasons why you shouldn't bother being selfless. Then he goes and ruins his own arguments by saying why there are three better reasons to be selfless:

#1 - Nobody Notices Selflessness: Turn on the television or surf through the internet and it’s painfully obvious that the world cares WAAAAY more about selfish, egotistical people than people who are trying to make a positive difference in the world. (Small example, Justin Bieber has fifty-four MILLION Twitter followers. Whereas the Twitter account for Malala Yousafzai’s Fund to help girls go to school has just a fraction of that).

A Better Reason to Do It Anyway: But are we in it for the glory and praise? Or are we in it to make a positive difference? Acts of selflessness might fly under the radar of the public eye, but they often change lives for the better. And anyway, the idea of being "selfless" kinda argues against the need for recognition and adoration (otherwise it wouldn't be selfless, would it?) Besides, within a few short years, the name and fame of selfish celebrities will fade. In contrast, the light and influence of truly selfless people will continue to grow stronger and brighter with time.

#2 - I’m An Introvert: Selflessness requires you to, you know, deal with people and being around...others. I hear ya. I’m a pretty serious introvert myself and social events often drain me of energy. Whenever I’m approached by extroverts (who always seem to have really, really big teeth) they seem to believe that it is their mission in life to rescue me from my solitary (yet voluntary) confinement.

A Better Reason to Do It Anyway: But I’ve learned that being selfless doesn’t mean ignoring my natural need for space and introspection. It simply means that I consciously allow room in my heart for others, because true happiness is found with others. I've learned that our joy in life is inexorably determined by the degree to which we love, so it's not a matter of losing your own space, just creating more space for others.

#3: Selflessness is a Loss - Self-sacrifice and giving is very draining -- both physically and mentally (not to mention emotionally). When you keep giving selflessly, the result is often a jaded soul that can be cynical and depressed with all it has seen.

A Better Reason to Do It Anyway: Actually, there's another side to this argument. Have you noticed that some of the best things in your life come to you because of your willingness to give time and energy to others (love, marriage, family, friends)? In a paradoxical way, selflessness—giving healthy levels of time and energy to others— is the best way to serve yourself.

And now, a message from my dear friend Ron Swanson on how to give to others.


Five Terrible Names for Products (and What They Could Have Named Them Instead)

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In Alexandra Watkins' latest book, Hello My Name Is Awesome, she talks about the various qualities that good product and business names should have and also what pitfalls to avoid.

Every year, corporations and individuals spend a lot of time and money creating names for themselves and their products, and every year, despite their best efforts, many of them arrive at names that are, well, terrible.

Of course, some products and companies have become successful despite having a troublesome name. (But to Watkins’ point, why would you want to start there?) Here are five awful product names and what Alexandra would have named them instead.

1. Iams
Named after its founder, Paul Iams, the uninviting name of this super premium pet food fails to evoke anything about caring for our beloved pets. It’s difficult to pronounce and hardly cute and cuddly. Plus it sounds like it tastes terrible. Thank goodness pets can’t read.

Better Name: VET’S PET
Iams products are distributed through veterinarians. When you’re at the vet, you want to know what he feeds his or her pet. That’s why a simple name like Vet’s Pet works. It evokes “this is the doctor’s choice for your dog or cat,” in a friendly and approachable way.

2. e.p.t.
When it was introduced in 1978, e.p.t. was the first early pregnancy test. Now 38 years later, competitors abound. While the brand is well-known thanks to quality products and millions spent on advertising, the name is makes no emotional connection with most women in their child-bearing years.

Better Name: MAYBE, BABY
The uncertainty of not knowing if you’re pregnant is a nail biter. A friendly, love-at-first-sight name like “Maybe, Baby,” makes a woman smile, and reduces her anxiety level. The name is lyrical, fun to say, and would incite “just in case” impulse purchases and wedding shower gifts.

3. Salonpas
This name sounds more like a fancy French hair salon than a pain relief patch. Like many bad names, it’s a loose amalgamation of two words (Salicylate + pass), which is completely lost on us. Plus, for a powerful product, the name is way too feminine and could turn off the tough guys who need it most.

Better Name: SMACKDOWN
You smack on the patch and it smacks down your pain. This name brings a smile, which is a pain reliever in itself. Big companies are terrified of names like this because they (pardon the pun) are outside the comfort zone. Yet fun names are the ones we love to Instagram.

4. Massage Envy
I’ve had massages in Bali, Fiji and Thailand. Now that’s something to envy. But an “affordable massage” in a shopping mall? Not so much. Massage Envy sounds awkward and would have made more sense as Envy Massage. I suspect the domain name was available for $9.95, which is never a good reason to pounce on a name.

A gentle transition from the current name (often recommended for a name change), Massage Well is a much deeper name. “Well” has a double meaning – “we massage well,” and “we’re committed to your wellness.” Plus men wouldn’t be embarrassed to go there.

5. Planter’s NUT-rition
This silly and misleading name drives me nuts. They have wrecked a perfectly good word to make a perfectly bad word. Worse, the name (and green packaging) evoke that nuts are good for you. Sure, in small quantities. But even a single serving packet has a whopping 17 grams of fat, 6 more than a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

Better Name: GO NUTS
Planters is trying to align their brand with a healthy lifestyle. So for people on the move looking for energy sustaining snacks, Go Nuts, makes sense. The name is fun, doesn’t make claims or trick consumers into thinking this is something healthy you should eat by the handful in front of the TV.