I spent most of my career helping companies build products and services to serve the needs of everyday consumers like you and me. In the process, I became an expert at identifying the determinants of new product success, and the sales and marketing programs to promote them. In fact, during the course of my career, I analyzed petabytes of data across thousands of programs in order to identify the critical success factors (CSF) that lead to success so I could use it to make more money.
From all the data I analyzed, it became clear to me that a “service mentality,” and the act of service itself, was at the heart of success in any business endeavor. However, I wondered if a service mentality had a similar impact on personal success. So, I set course to find out.
The year was 2008 when I conducted a proprietary research study to determine if being service oriented (i.e. other focused) could explain why one person had a greater personal net worth compared to someone who might be struggling financially. In the study, I asked 185 consumers to complete the Interpersonal Reactivity Index Survey, which measures people's levels of empathy and their ability to understand the perspectives of other people. The results of the study were surprising.
I discovered that people who had the highest net worth also scored higher in their ability to identify the needs of others. These people were better off because they used their insight to profit in various ways. At this point, it became clear to me that service was also at the heart of personal success.
This insight made me recall my days in graduate school, studying economic theory, and the words of Adam Smith, the great architect of modern-day capitalism. Smith proposed that when people are pursuing their own interests, they would branch out and build products and services for other people, which would make them rich. However, the byproduct of this seemingly self-interested pursuit was that society benefited from these entrepreneurs who serve people. That is, all of society was made richer by a person's efforts to serve other people. This seemed like a hidden precept to me, and one that was forgotten in many defunct government and philanthropic efforts.
At the same time I had this insight, I witnessed a ballooning U.S. government debt nearing 10 trillion dollars to fund many noble programs. Yet, somehow, I thought, we had forgotten what made America great and it wasn't more government spending. What made America great was the service mentality of its citizens and its market economy, but I'm not a politician focused on government programs, so I just went back to my research.
This time I broadened and expanded my research focus by exploring if there were any benefits of service beyond the obvious economic ones. I was astonished to learn that service to others had a profound impact in many areas of life I did not expect. I learned that service has a substantial impact on fighting diseases, and that even witnessing an act of service would raise the level of immunoglobulin A in your blood, which fights bacteria and viruses. I also uncovered additional research that showed service was a natural remedy to combat depression and anger because it increases levels of natural opiates. I labeled this the do-good feel-good phenomenon.
The list of benefits was growing, and the power of service became clear to me. However, it had taken me two master's degrees, 15 years of professional experience, and millions of dollars in market research to figure it out. It all seemed like my little secret, and I didn't think much about it until The Great Recession hit. It was then I felt I had to share what I discovered. I felt I needed to do something to help.
I began writing A Way Out: The Hidden Fortune of Service in late 2008 with the express purpose of helping people and businesses struggling with the economic and emotional impact of a financial system teetering on the brink of collapse. By the time I was done with the book, it was 2011 and the entire world was coming out of the other side of The Great Recession in what would lead to the "Great Bull Run" in the stock market and one of the longest streaks of economic growth ever seen. By then, it seemed my book had little relevance on the scale I had imagined it. So, I placed the book on the shelf, and I forgot about it.
In January of 2020 I felt something deep inside tell me it was time to publish A Way Out. This year, I felt, the book was going to be important, so I pulled it off the shelf and began editing it. Then, in February 2020, COVID-19 hit, and all hell broke loose. The Great Repression had begun.
People were dying. The stock market collapsed. Soon thereafter we were in social lockdown, businesses were forced to close, and unemployment was spiking to levels not seen since The Great Depression. I watched people everywhere desperate, wondering how they were going to get by and survive.
I kept editing A Way Out until it was finally ready to be published. And though, it's the end of 2020, I did my best to get it out as fast as I could. However, the value of A Way Out transcends the immediate ills we face. The book provides a blueprint for people and businesses to use in any economic circumstance to survive and thrive.
When things go wrong, it's not over. There is a solution. There is A Way Out!