Article 034: Stop asking 'What's in it for me?'

Whenever we encounter a new person, opportunity or experience or even listen to a story, our brains are wired to ask the question “What’s in it for me?”. We constantly consider this perspective not because we’re inherently selfish, but because it is our brain’s default response. Our mindset is configured in such a way that our initial reaction is to filter newness through the lens of personal context. The “What’s in it for me?” question is just that. A filter.

A rebel entrepreneur is aware of asking themselves “What’s in it for me?”. If we indulge too much in the question it gains power and our mindset becomes toxic. In business, this attitude won’t be helpful, as most people – colleagues, employees, investors, competitors – will see you are not really interested in them or what they have to say.

In meeting new people, it is possible to forget about yourself and push past that initial filter. If we become sincerely interested in their lives, we can gauge their passions and find out what makes them tick. Listening, asking questions and helping if you can – all play an important role in building authentic relationships which, ironically, can help you with your vision. This awareness doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with asking them for help. However, it’s important to get your timing right after you have shown genuine interest in them.

Our brains are also wired to trigger happiness when we act selflessly. For instance, when we receive a gift, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex encounter a cognitive conflict that must be resolved. The easiest way to resolve this conflict is to give back, and, once we do, we are left feeling justified and peaceful. Beyond asking “What’s in it for me?”, we are also psychologically programmed to give and help.

Once we stop asking “What’s in it for me?” and change that question to “How can I help?” – we can tap into the part of our psyche that thrives on helping others, and we can then reap the benefits of social reciprocity. In doing this, we may meet people who are similar and only too happy to do what they can in order to make the vision for our product or service a reality.




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