Inspiration is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes.

I had the privilege recently of joining my Business Learning Institute colleagues in Washington, D.C., where BLI served as a platinum sponsor of the Annual Convention of the National Association of Black Accountants. Day 1 found me at lunch with Daniel Worrell, director of internal controls for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City, who said the most amazing thing about halfway through the meal.

To paraphrase Daniel’s thoughts:

We go to conferences, and CPE programs, and networking events intent on learning as much as we can — of grabbing as much value as we can get our hands on and taking it home. And with good reason — the only way to conquer change is to out-learn it, right?

Here’s Daniel’s question, though:

How many of us go to these events intent on leaving something behind?

It’s true: The most important skill we’ll need going forward is the ability to learn new skills. “Serial mastery,” London Business School professor Lynda Gratton calls it.

Equally important, though — maybe more important — is our ability to add value to other people’s lives. To share what we know with our followers. To help our clients solve problems. To build relationships through generosity.

Do that often enough and you’ll build your business at the same time.

The next time you go to a conference, or a CPE program, or a networking event, think not only about the value you want to get, but of the value you want to give. What are you going to leave behind? What great questions are you going to ask? What thought-provoking insights are you going to offer? What problems are you going to solve? What relationships are you going to build?

To paraphrase JFK, think not of what others can do for you, but of what you can do for others.

That’s the sweet spot of social business — where we give in order to receive.

Thinking of others first is the essence of the social movement — and really, it’s just the right thing to do.

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