Add Value

By Scott Westerman

ScottnSteveWKARListen to an audio version of this message.

“Our rewards in life will always be in direct proportion to our service.” ~Earl Nightengale

Steve Schram surveyed the packed house at WKAR’s Studio C. The award winning Director of Michigan Public Media stood at the podium to be honored as a Michigan State University College of Communications Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumnus, recognizing a lifetime of service to family, community and the University.

Even those in the room who had never met Steve knew his name. Each one had either directly or indirectly benefitted from the things he had accomplished. There were the students Steve had mentored who had gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields, co-workers who had been inspired to model his behavior with predictably successful results, admirers who had watched Steve turn every operation he was associated with into a high performance organization, and friends like me, who knew exactly how he did it: By personally living up to the standards he expected from everyone else.

What one dimension was the key contributor to Steve’s extraordinary career?

He always looked for ways to add value.

Adding value can be as simple as helping someone who is lost to find their way. Or it can be a complex, innovative solution to a perennial problem. Then the inexorable law of cause and effect takes over. If you create the habit of adding value to every encounter, you will ultimately earn a return on the investment.

Here’s the rub: It takes time. This isn’t a microwave meal you can enjoy in sixty seconds. In many cases it requires months and years of dedication to your craft, to a life of learning that can expand your mind to help you and rethink and re-envision everything you take for granted, to the relationships you treasure, and to the body that is ultimately the vessel from which your creative ideas are executed.

You will get hurt along the way. That’s a given. Take comfort in the knowledge that “time heals all wounds and time wounds all heels.” Karma always has it’s way. What goes around comes around. You may not be around to witness a bad bosses downfall. If you were smart, you will have long ago “removed yourself from the unacceptable.” But even while you toil in uncomfortable environments, you are responsible for adding value. Being part of the solution is always a better career move than being part of the problem.

So resolve to be a little bit better at what you do tomorrow than you were today. Seek out additional avenues to serve. Take on just a little bit more than might be expected. Cultivate resources to exercise and expand your most important muscle: Your mind. Develop the resilience that comes from learning the gifts that failure can teach. Be grateful for and appreciate those around you who desire to walk the path with you. And deliver results, even when the rest of the world may be stuck in neutral.

We could all sense the heartfelt emotion conveyed by Steve’s words that Spring evening in East Lansing.

The magnitude of the blessings he had received during his 4 decade career were reflected in faces of those who were there. Each of us had become better human beings because our paths had crossed his. In the process, Steve had become a better human being, too.

What does Steve story teach us?

The success formula is really quite simple: Start each day with a determination to add value to the world. Keep and open mind and vast vistas of opportunity will open up for you, with all the trials and tribulations that go along with them. Pursue your ever evolving professional passion with purpose, patience and persistence. Fellow travelers will emerge to strive with you. And in time, you will inevitably find all that you seek.

In the end, you will discover that true rewards don’t equate to cash flow, authority or a title on a business card. They can be found in the smiling eyes of those who’s lives were better because you were part of them.