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How To Be Relevant in an Hour a Week

At a dinner I attended last year in Toronto with actor Morgan Freeman, someone asked the following question: “Morgan, do you still get nervous after you make a film? I mean, do you still care about the reviews and the box office numbers given all your success?”

In his calm, commanding voice Morgan responded: “You bet I care! The moment I make a film that flops at the box office, my phone doesn’t ring as much. And you want that phone to keep ringing. The worst thing for any actor is when the phone stops ringing. It means directors aren’t looking for you, and producers don’t have you on their short lists.”

I realized something important that night. No matter how big you are or how high you sit on the totem pole, you still want to be relevant. You want to be “in the game.” You want to matter. In fact so much of our behaviour and motivation in life: our desire to achieve, succeed, gain recognition, prominence and respect, is fueled by an innate desire to be relevant.

But why? Why are we in this perpetual race for relevancy?

In a word: connection. Relevancy is about connection. You, me, all of us — we are here to connect. We are here to participate in the story of others. That’s why you’re on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest. It’s why you are looking for Mr. or Ms. Right; it’s why family matters, community counts and being loved and appreciated by others is so important.

Knowing that your life means something to someone else is what this is all about!

So yes I say, be relevant!

But how can you become MORE relevant? How can you become a person of influence and import? It’s really very simple. Make other people relevant!

“The greatest good you can do for another person is not just share your riches, but reveal to him his own.” I read this quote by Benjamin Disraeli on the Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada website. In other words, don’t just share your gifts with other people by being good at your job and showing off your skills and talents. Find a way to make those around you see their own potential and power and light. Make them relevant, and yours will multiply tenfold.

Now imagine if by taking one hour a week, just one hour, you could become someone that is truly relevant? Well, you can. Consider the following:

The average Canadian spends a whopping four hours and 20 minutes a day watching TV (5 hours in the U.S. for comparison), and that doesn’t include social media time. That’s 30 hours a week or 1560 hours a year in which the average Canadian sits on a couch abjectly watching images flutter on a screen. That adds up to 65 days a year, people!

So here’s my challenge to you:

Give up one sitcom, one iffy reality show to free up an hour of your time each week. Write a letter of commitment to yourself in which you agree to consistently take that hour and use it to make someone else shine. You could volunteer, use if for family time, for deepening a friendship, for writing thank you letters to soldiers serving abroad, you name it.

Some suggestions:

  1. Become a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada.
  2. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter
  3. Visit an old age home and spend time with the elderly (even your own grandparents)
  4. Get involved in your local community center
  5. Make time to sit with a friend or colleague who is going through a tough time and needs more support

In a month from now you will notice a big difference in your life, I guarantee it.
Let me know how your relevancy challenge is impacting you, and I’ll share your thoughts in a follow up article. Also, feel free to post your comments and impressions below. In the meantime, remember this simple mantra:

If you want to be relevant — make somebody else relevant. What you want, you must give. Good luck!

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