Me First Doesn’t Work

Great leaders, great parents, great partners, great friends, and great organizations all have one thing in common: They are contributors—and a better world is created because of their existence.

One of the great ironies of life, and what might be a stroke of metaphysical genius, is that lasting success in any endeavor requires that we put ourselves, our own wants and needs, second in line. There is only one exception and that is giving priority to, and paying attention to, our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Much has been written both in support and critical of the “Law of Attraction.” I have no argument with its intent; however, I have learned there is a principal that supersedes any other when it comes to “attracting” success. It is called The Principle of Contribution. Successful people understand the principle as follows: “Before crops can be reaped, seeds must be sown; before profits can be reaped, problems must be solved; before love can be reaped, love must be shown.”

In a world that is being transformed at breakneck speed, The Principle of Contribution has never changed—its truth is timeless. Contribution is the invisible thread woven into the very fabric of the universe.

Contribution is also the magic word for understanding how to achieve what we want for our lives. If we want a successful career, we must discover ways to maximize our contribution to the organization we work for and the people we serve. If we seek rich relationships, we look to how we can contribute to enriching the lives of our loved ones, our friends, and our colleagues.

What businesses have you as a loyal customer? Those that consistently contribute value to you. What businesses fail? Those that fail to contribute. What friendships or relationships mean the most to you? Those that contribute value in ways that are important to you. Who are the people who are universally most admired? Those who make the most of their lives and contribute to the betterment of all.


When I am asked to speak to college students, an inevitable question is: “How can I get a good job?” My counsel is straightforward: “Keep in mind that no individual or organization wants to ‘give’ you a job, but there are many organizations looking for people who will contribute to their success. Your first task is to discover an organization to which you would make that level of commitment.”

Also, keep in mind that job descriptions define tasks and responsibilities. They do not define contribution and yet that is what you ultimately are measured by.

Life is at its very best when people are committed to contributing to each other. We love to work in a team where our gifts are appreciated, and our contribution is valued. We love to be with friends who accept, encourage, and listen to us. We love to dine in restaurants where not only the food is delicious, but also where the staff contribute to an exceptional dining experience. We love to go to concerts where the musicians lift our spirits and move our souls.

Wherever you look, the evidence is clear— great leaders, great parents, great partners, great friends, and great organizations all have one thing in common: They are contributors— and a better world is created because of their existence.

Each of us will define and measure success in our own way, but no matter your choice, if you are to succeed, you must understand that your rewards in life are connected to the contribution you make.

Here are two questions to assess the contribution only you can make:

  • How do I want my family, friends, and colleagues to remember me?
  • What do I want to be remembered for?

As I note in my book, “Mark Of An Eagle— How Your Life Changes the World (Calumet Editions), the lesson is this: “The difference between luck and good fortune is that the first is arbitrary and the latter a consequence of contribution.”

David McNally is an internationally acclaimed business speaker and the author of the best-selling books, “Mark Of An Eagle—How Your Life Changes the World,” “Even Eagles Need a Push,” and “The Eagle’s Secret,” among others. For more information, visit: