Stop Focusing on Providing Value— Do This Instead

stop trying to provide value to other people, do this instead

Yep, I know, this is gonna sound a bit controversial. But, I do think some people (young folks especially) could use this advice. A lot of people in the personal development and entrepreneurial fields say something along the lines of: “Find a way to provide value.” However, a lot of people fail to realize that the value they think they’re offering to other people (especially when starting off) may not actually be of any value to the person receiving it.

Typically, young folks do not know how to translate their skills into an offer that is of value to others, at least not in the sense of doing something impactful or meaningful. If you dive in headfirst expecting immediate validation, appreciation or compensation, you might be surprised to bump your head hard into a brick wall. You’ll be lucky if you’re wearing a protective helmet.

There are many paths that are established and guaranteed. It’s the reason why a lot of young individuals still opt to go to college or trade school and get jobs in specific fields. Even when starting a business, there are some paths that are more likely to succeed than others.

But if you’re trying to be more innovative, creative, or unique, I would advise you to be more experimental than calculated. Some ideas are going to suck. Some ideas may be brilliant, but other things may be lacking (resources, marketing, ease of understanding, wrong target audience, etc.).

If you’re going to attempt to provide value, do it because you want the experience, not the immediate rewards. This is especially important if you’re trying to build streams of passive income (something I highly recommend for people to dabble in, especially starting in your teens or 20s). Sometimes, the offer is going to land just right. But, it may take some time and experimentation to figure it out.

I briefly touched on this point earlier. Too many people try to “provide value” in return for something. It’s a transactional relationship, give or take. It’s okay for you to want to be compensated for your work and such, but to truly provide value, you have to be willing to give more than you take. If that’s hard for you to digest, then that’s a sign to focus on providing for yourself first. Prioritize your health (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) before you focus outwards.

Provide value for yourself first in order to learn how to provide value to others. Invest in hobbies and interests, not just formal education. You can go to college if you’d really like to, but it’s not necessary for most fields, especially in the day and age of the internet. (It’s also wise to avoid accumulating large amounts of debt if there is no guarantee of income later.) Learn a technological skill such as programming or building a website, and then create your own websites or apps. Offer these services to others. Learn people’s preferences.

If you’re highly interested in a particular topic, chances are that in a world of close to 8 billion people, someone else is too. While you are learning, try experimenting with different ways to apply the knowledge. Don’t just passively take in all the information. Actively use it. If you enjoy singing, try performing in front of others or recording it and sharing it. If you enjoy gaming, consider streaming. If you enjoy writing, publish an article or a book. If you enjoy tennis, compete locally or offer lessons. See what opportunities are out there and actively engage.

Just to give quick examples in my own experiences, I started blogging 17 years (might be a year off in either direction, cannot remember the exact date). That might be hard to believe since I’m not the best writer, though I also have dabbled into it on and off, never quite consistently. At one point years ago, I tried taking blogging more seriously, experimenting with ads and affiliate marketing. None of these really took off. Still, I just enjoyed blogging in general. I also think that over time, I’ve improved in some ways. Because of my experience with blogging, I’ve also dabbled into other related activities such as basic HTML, photoshopping, publishing eBooks, creating an email listing, etc. Some of these skills have been handy in other activities in general. Not everything I’ve tried has resulted in significant income. But, I do not regret those experiences. I was happy to do these things for free or of little cost, as I was enjoying the process.

I’ve also dabbled into music on and off for several years. The first time I made money with music was when I graduated from middle school, when I was paid to sing as part of a city choir of students. The second time, I wasn’t paid, but I was invited as part of a high school group to perform in Hungary with local students. I enjoyed my travel around the country with friends. I eventually produced a semi-viral song cover back in 2017, and successfully made what I’d consider significant passive income through it. I didn’t even know what passive income was until I was halfway through college. I didn’t really expect to make much passive income either, but this is when I more easily understood that value can be perceived differently between the giver and the receiver.

The best thing to do is be open to all the possibilities. Be willing to make mistakes and fail. Experiment as much as you can. Focus on the experience and not the outcome. Eventually, you will discover ways to provide value that are meaningful, and you may even end up being pleasantly surprised. (I know I have!)

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