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Here are some common situations I’ve encountered where you can really tell if you truly like your fellow human beings and believe that helping them is in your best interest.
1) You are working with a partner on a project. All day and night, you slaved away at it, working really hard. Meanwhile, your partner doesn’t show up at all. At the end, he hurriedly contributes a few paragraphs to your report. When you present your project to your boss/professor, he deems it to be exceptional. What do you think and how do you feel?
2) You created an awesome website requiring thousands of hours of hard work. Of course, you are extremely proud of your work, as are the people visiting your site. One day, as you are surfing the net, you found that somebody has copied your website and translated it to Spanish. What do you do about it?
3) You have a great idea for curing cancer, with a pretty good chance of working. Unfortunately, it takes quite a while to get a patent for it. What do you do about it?
4) You wrote what you deemed to be an amazing book full of really great ideas. You are planning on publishing it at some point and would like others to see it. What do you do to protect your work so that they won’t copy it?
These are some very common situations, if you substitute the nouns like cancer for other ideas that you may have, etc. I think these questions really separates out the successful people from the unsuccessful ones. They emphasize three of the most important skills in life: Having an abundant mindset, being a good person, and being able to let go of things. Here are what I believe to be the correct answers:
1) Most people would probably feel extremely unfair here. The thought process is, “Why should he get any credit when he barely did any work?” However, the reality of the situation is that whoever gets the credit really doesn’t matter. What’s wrong with allowing your partner to feel proud of himself? If anything, it’ll make him a better person and be much more likely to work harder on his next project (be it with you or not. If not with you, why not allow him to work harder for his next partner?) You are in no way diminished having given half the credit to your partner. Credit isn’t like some sort of cake, where if you eat all of it, there’s none left. Whether both people get credit for it or not, you are always left with the exact same amount of credit – you worked on the project and it came out great.
Allowing your partner to take pride his work (even though it’s just a few paragraphs) helps him to develop as a person. You are giving him positive reinforcement for doing something, which will make him all the more likely to do more. What would happen if you talked your boss/professor into firing/failing your partner? Either your boss/professor will disagree, hence hurting your image with them and your partner; Or your boss/professor will agree, getting your partner fired/a lower grade. You gain absolutely nothing and turned a friend into an enemy. In addition, your partner would lose all enthuiasm for the work he was doing and maybe permanently break his confidence in himself.
2) This situation has actually happened to me quite recently. WM Media (the company that I started with a friend) acquired the best final fantasy website around some time back. One day, I found a Spanish version of this website and wanted to make them pay a royalty to us for using our material. Thankfully, my partner was around to give me a larger perspective. It took work for that person to translate the website into Spanish, plus it in no way diminishes our website since it targets a different audience. In fact, if anything, it sends traffic to the english version of the website, thereby benefiting us. Had I requested a royalty, maybe the spanish website would have gone down, hurting us. Not only that, the webmaster may be extremely angry and do things to obstruct us in the future. Also, the website was providing a service – giving final fantasy information to Spanish fans, which is not a dishonorable service to provide to people.
3) Here, we don’t even know if the cure works. Thinking about patenting it is based on the assumption that other people will steal the idea and use it without crediting us. Why not have faith in people and just tell as many people about the idea as possible? If it doesn’t work out, we’ll know it right away and have a chance to refine it. There are so many “wrong” ideas around that this is probably going to be the case anyway. If it does work out, then enough people would have talked with us to know that it was our idea. In this case, if tens of millions of people get cured of cancer because of us, I’d think at least some of them would want to say “thank you” and support us. Even if they don’t, we would have gained influence in medical circles and recieve support in any of our future endeavors. Wouldn’t we use our money on our future endeavors anyway even if we did patent it and sold it?
4) This has happened to me once. I met a guy at rock climbing who had a book he wanted to publish. I told him I might be able to publish it online for him, making him pretty excited. Then, after many hours of talking, he finally showed it to me, making sure that I agreed to not tell anyone its contents. It was about three paragraphs of what I thought was pretty uninteresting material.
Compare this to what I am doing now. It take hours to write up each one of these articles and publish them at absolutely no charge. That’s because I believe it is of value to people like yourself, and I’d like you to have that value. If enough people benefit from my articles, that itself is very gratifying to me (and is what I’d do anyway even if I had billions of dollars). If you feel like you’ve gained some value from reading articles on my website, simply forward these articles to people you think will benefit from it. Not only do I not care that my work is copied, I want it to be copied, so that as many people can benefit from it as possible.
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