The more experience I gain in this life, the more I appreciate the brilliance and über-applicability of John F. Kennedy’s most famous quote:
Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of speaking to a class of students at UT-Dallas. I focused my presentation on the most important bits of wisdom I’ve gained during my career that I wish I’d understood when I was in their shoes.
Number one was “JFK had it right.”
And what I mean by that is the importance of approaching everything with a humble, generous, giving mindset.
Ask not what your significant other can do for you; ask what you can do for your significant other.
Imagine how loving and fulfilling such a relationship would be?
Ask not what your audience can do for you; ask what you can do for your audience.
For those of us who work online, and who build audiences, this mindset is immensely important.
Every audience I’ve tried to build selfishly has failed. Every audience I’ve built based on a genuine desire to provide that audience with value has succeeded.
It’s not a coincidence.
Ask not what your brain can do you for you; ask what you can do for your brain.
This one might sound weird at first, but dig into it.
We all sometimes are at war with our brains — wishing they would provide the knowledge or memories or motivations that we want when we want them. But are we being generous with our brains and setting them up for success?
Are we sleeping enough? Are we reading enough? Are we exercising our brains to keep them sharp, or just demanding that they be so?
If we’re honest, our answers might disappoint us.
JFK’s role as president was to inspire feelings and actions of humble patriotism driven by national pride. That single phrase — “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” — drove the point home as well as any single statement any president has ever uttered.
And all it’s asking for is primility.
Do you have pride in your country? Then humbly serve it.
- Do you have pride in your relationship? Then humbly serve it.
- Do you have pride in your audience? Then humbly serve it.
- Do you have pride in your brain power? Then humbly serve it.
There are examples for days. But I think you get the point.
I’ve mentioned country, relationship, audience, and brain … what other areas of life can JFK’s brand of primility be applied?
I’d love to read your thoughts below in the comments.
The second and third bits of wisdom I shared with the UTD class are to come …
Here’s the full JFK speech: