Service for the Right Reasons

April 18, 2011 Olin Patterson No comments

This is an excerpt I took from Timothy Ferris’s book The Four Hour Work Week. I love this book and have consulted it often. I am sharing this page verbatim, but think it is an awesome opinion to service, and encourage anyone to check out the book:

Service for the Right Reasons: To save the whales, or kill them and feed the children?


“One would expect me to mention service in this chapter, and here it is. Like all before it, the twist is a bit different.

Service to me is simple: doing something that improves life besides your own. This is not the same as philanthropy. Philanthropy is the altruistic concern for the well-being of mankind – human life. Human life has long been focused on the exclusion of the environment and the rest of the food chain, hence our current race to imminent extinction. Serves us right. The world does not exist solely for the betterment and multiplication of mankind.

Before I start chaining myself to trees and saving the dart frogs, though, I shall take my own advice: Do not become a cause snob. How can you help starving children in Africa when there are starving children in Los Angeles? How can you save whales when homeless people are freezing to death? How does doing volunteer research on coral destruction help those people who need help now?

Everything out there needs help, so don’t get baited into ‘my cause can beat up your cause’ arguments with no right answer. There are no qualitative or quantitative comparisons that make sense. The truth is this: Those thousands of lives you save could contribute to a famine that kills millions, or that one bush in Bolivia you protect could hold the cure for cancer. The down-stream effects are unknown. Do your best and hope for the best. If you are improving the world – however you define that – consider your job well done.

Service isn’t limited to saving lives or the environment either. It can also improve your life. If you are a musician and put a smile on the faces of others, view that as service. If you are a mentor and change the life of one child for the better, the world has been improved. Improving the quality of life in the world is no fashion inferior to adding more lives.

Service is an attitude. Find the cause or vehicle that interests you most and make not apologies.”

-Tim Ferriss

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