Creating and Delivering Value as a Daily Habit

This newsletter was written by Steve Pavlina, sent on October 21, 2009. It’s re-published here for achival purposes, with permission.

My philosophy of financial abundance is fairly simple. I focus on two specific areas.

The first area is creating social value. “Social value” is something that other people consider worthwhile. If I consider it worthwhile, but no one else does, I can still do it, but I wouldn’t expect it to have much impact on my finances or my experience of abundance.

When I focus on creating social value, I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I create something that no one seems to value but me. But I learn from those failures and try again. With enough attempts I eventually create something that’s a decent hit. This means that a reasonable number of people consider my creation to be of value to them. In my case that creation could be an article, a speech, a podcast, or more recently a 3-day workshop.

The second area I focus on is delivering value. It’s not enough to create value and just let it sit there. I know I have to get it into people’s hands in order for the value to be received. Many people are good at creating value, but they’re lousy at delivering it to people, so they remain stuck in financial scarcity.

I could very well hand-deliver my creations to one person at a time, but that wouldn’t be very efficient. So I favor delivery methods that allow lots of people to receive my creative output at the same time. One good way to do that is to use the Internet. I can post an article, a podcast, or a video on my website, and people can receive that value for years to come. Or I can do a speech or workshop and share the same message with a group of people.

It’s true that you can provide much deeper value if you deliver it to one person at a time. For example, it would be hard to give a decent massage to 100 people in a single day. But if you can identify the core essence of the value you’re creating and find a way to deliver it to many more people, you’ll be able to get a lot more value into people’s hands, and consequently, you’re going to enjoy a much greater flow-back of abundance. So instead of giving people massages one at a time, if you can train other people to give great massages, you’ll be putting a lot more potential value out there.

You’ll be compensated for the value you’re actually delivering. So if you desire more compensation, then push yourself to get your value into the hands of more and more people. Otherwise you’re holding back the expression of your own greatness. Don’t be selfish with your value. Go out and share it!

Creating Flow

When you get good at creating and delivering value — such that lots of people are receiving it — you’ll soon discover that value flows back to you as well. That flow-back may come in the form of money (i.e. people paying you for your service), or it could appear as new opportunities that enable you to enjoy more abundance in your life — or both. As long as you’re putting out a solid flow of value creation and delivery, you’ll eventually enjoy some kind of flow-back.

This is a good place to be. As you begin to observe the relationship between delivering value to people and receiving value in return, you can choose to increase the flow of your output and thereby increase the flow-back of abundance. You can accomplish this by getting better at creating value (i.e. learn to create more value in less time), or you can do it by delivering your value to more people (i.e. reach more people in less time). Ideally you’ll do a little of both — create stronger value and get it into the hands of more people.

Building Your Skills

Creating value is a skill. Delivering value is a skill too. Don’t expect to master either of these skills right out of the gate. It takes practice and effort to become competent. It takes even more practice to develop expertise. There’s no entitlement here, so get that silly notion out of your mind.

If you want to get good at anything, you must practice it for years. In the beginning you will almost certainly stink. That’s okay. Beginners are supposed to stink. But don’t give up. Realize that you must begin as a white belt if you wish to become a black belt. And if you’re going to train for such a long period of time, you’d better fall in love with the sport.

In order to get good at delivering value, I spent many years working on my communication skills. I trained myself to become a decent writer. People sometimes ask me how they can become better writers or bloggers. I advise them to write a thousand articles or short stories over a period of several years, and post them for free like I did. Then listen to the feedback from readers, and keep making small adjustments to improve. That’s my honest answer, but of course some people would prefer a quick fix they can implement right away. The best quick fix I can offer is to adopt a solid work ethic and to stick with it for years.

I got a C+ grade on my first high school English essay. That was upsetting to me because I worked hard on it, but a C+ level of quality was the best I could do. I was a natural at math, but writing was difficult for me; I just wasn’t very good at it. However, I committed to working hard so I could get good at it, and more than two decades later, I’m able to create and deliver a lot of social value as a writer. That’s because I put in the effort to learn the craft of writing. It largely came down to lots of hard work and practice. Five years from now I’ll be an even better writer because I’ll continue practicing the craft, listening to feedback, and refining my skills. And take note that the refinement process is focused on getting better at creating value for other people. I don’t put much effort into learning new skills that won’t help me express value that people actually care about.

It’s fine to do other work to pay your bills on the side while you’re building your skill at creating and delivering value. By all means take care of your needs. But don’t get so caught up in making a living that you lose sight of the big picture. If you really want to experience abundance, then you’ll want to master at least one form of value creation and delivery that you enjoy.

Talk Is Cheap

Now you may be thinking, this is easier said than done. And of course that’s true. So focus on the doing, not on the saying.

Talking about what you’re going to do doesn’t create or deliver any value. Nor does thinking about it. At some point you have to engage your creative energies and take action.

Quite often people feel compelled to tell me about what they’re going to do. Sometimes their ideas are quite compelling, but only rarely do those same people follow through and actually implement them. And of course they don’t receive any flow-back of abundance because talking about the ideas doesn’t deliver any real value.

How much value is being delivered when you talk about the business you’re going to start, the song you’re going to compose, or the product you’re going to create? None whatsoever. So why bother talking about it at all? It’s fine to talk about it if you’re actually going to do it, but make sure that your talk doesn’t become a substitute for action. If you keep talking and not doing, perhaps it’s better to shut up about it. I rarely talk about the articles I’m going to write because I know that doesn’t create any value. The value only gets delivered when I publish something. So instead of talking, I prefer to get busy writing.

Daily Practice

If you want to enjoy the flow-back of financial abundance, then forget about money for a while. Money is an effect, not a cause. If you focus on trying to make money, you’re putting the cart before the horse.

Instead, focus your attention on creating and delivering value. Make it part of your daily routine, so it becomes a habit.

Don’t overcomplicate this. Creating value for someone really isn’t that difficult. If you don’t know where to begin, then start small. Offer to give someone a massage. Send a few people nice emails telling them what you appreciate about them. Offer to babysit someone’s kids while they go out on a date. Start doing the sorts of things that people will thank you for.

Make this a daily habit. Every day ask yourself, What can I do to create value for someone today? Then go do it, and make sure you deliver that value as soon as possible — ideally on the same day you create it.

Don’t allow more than a few days to go by without creating and delivering some form of value. If you slack off, your creative flow will begin to atrophy, and it will feel unusually difficult to engage in creative work. But if you make this a daily practice, your creative energies will keep getting stronger, and it will feel very natural to keep the flow going.

Do NOT get stuck in your head. Don’t get caught up daydreaming about all the different things you could do to create value. Don’t start writing out grand plans and creating spreadsheets. Those activities may seem intelligent, but they don’t actually create or deliver any real value. All they do is keep you stuck where you are.

Make the commitment to create and deliver some form of value to people as a daily habit. One day you might write and post a new article for your blog. The next day you might simply offer some encouragement to a friend. And another day you might make a nice dinner for your significant other, followed by a relaxing massage.

It’s perfectly fine to work on big projects — projects that may involve creating value that won’t be delivered for months or years to come. But those big projects are no substitute for the daily practice of creating and delivering value. If you stop delivering value for too long, the flow-back of abundance will soon dry up as well. This has happened to me several times when I got caught up working on big projects and failed to maintain my daily practice.

Creating and delivering value is like physical exercise. You can work on a big project like planning and constructing your own home gym, and that may indeed benefit you in the long run, but it doesn’t mean you should slack off on daily exercise while the gym is being built. Maintain the habit of daily exercise even while your gym is still in the planning stage. Then you can upgrade your exercise routine when the new gym is ready.

Similarly, even as you work on big projects from time to time, keep maintaining the daily habit of creating and delivering value. This will keep you in the flow of abundance. Because you’re always giving, you’ll always be receiving. Once you’ve got this habit going strong, then you can tackle some of those bigger projects that will deliver even more value. But no matter what, make sure the daily practice remains intact.

Enjoying Abundance

I enjoy an abundant lifestyle by choice, but I largely ignore the role of money in my life. I know that money is merely an effect. Money isn’t worthy of much attention by itself. What deserves more attention is creating and delivering value to people. When I focus on that side, the money, resources, relationships, and opportunities all keep flowing beautifully.

When I lose sight of this and start focusing on the money, such as by asking myself, How can I make more money? then the flow-back begins to weaken. Why? Because as soon as I start thinking about making money, I’ve stopped creating and delivering value. Instead of using my power creatively, I get caught up in the trap of giving my power away to money.

Once I catch myself making this stupid mistake, I can let it go and shift my attention back to creating and delivering value. I feel better when I do that, and almost immediately the flow-back of abundance begins to build. Why? Because by creating and delivering value, I’m doing the very things necessary to encourage the flow of money in my life.

If you’d really like to get this abundance thing handled, then please take this advice to heart. Enjoying abundance has nothing to do with money. The flow of money is simply an effect. Focusing on the money is like looking at a dark fireplace and trying to feel the heat. All you will create is frustration. If you want the fireplace to generate heat, then you must take certain actions: Put wood, kindling, and tinder in the fireplace. Light a match and set it on fire. Then wait a bit. After that you’ll be able to feel the heat soon enough. And to keep the heat going, you need only continue to add more wood. These actions are fairly simple, and they’re effective. And yet, most people do the equivalent of trying to extract heat from the cold fireplace. This is what happens when you become obsessed with trying to “make money.” You’re only going to look silly requesting heat from a cold fireplace — or intending money to flow from an empty wallet.

Similarly, if you want to enjoy financial abundance, then you must take certain habitual actions: Create social value, and deliver it to as many people as you can. Build your skills year after year. If you do that consistently and keep growing and improving, you’ll soon experience a delightful flow-back of abundance. That abundance is a natural consequence of your daily habit of creative contribution.

Although the road to financial abundance may seem long, the process to get there is actually quite simple. Do whatever it takes to make a daily habit of creating and delivering value to people, even if you feel you’re only able to offer a small amount of value at first. Then keep looking for ways to create stronger value and to deliver your value to more people. If you can install that habit now — a 30-day trial is a great way to do it — you’ll eventually enjoy a wonderful flow of abundance through your life. And remember — the time is going to pass anyway. What would you like to be experiencing five years from now? The decision you make right now will determine whether it’s to be scarcity or abundance.

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