Are you useful?

Scott Adams, most well known for his acclaimed comic strip, Dilbert, was asked what he would put on a billboard if he could put any message on any billboard anywhere in the world. His answer? "Be useful." What is it about these two words that incites action and gets our blood pumping?

Are you useful?

Maybe it's just me, but when I first heard him utter those words, my mind kicked into overdrive. Am I useful? Am I bringing anything of value to this world? What am I doing now that is contributing to the betterment of... anything? The world... my city... another human being...

It's just two words - simple ones at that - but they pack a punch because they resonate with one of the deepest desires of mankind. To be needed. To participate in something larger than ourselves and, in doing so, to belong. But being useful, as simplistic of an idea as it is, isn't as easy in application as it is in theory. It means we must be attentive to needs, we must be half-decent at troubleshooting and we must be willing to get off our butt and do something for someone other than ourselves. None of which are easy feats if left to our own, carnal devices.

However, if resolute in our desire to be useful, we need not wait for opportunity to arise before we take action.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
— Anne Frank

Awareness & Troubleshooting

Separate from Scott Adam's remarks on inspirational signage, James Altucher wrote about "becoming an idea machine." His theory is that our idea side is a muscle and must be trained with practice to generate ideas at a constant pace. Therefore, if we write down 10 new ideas (about anything) each morning, we'll train our minds to become more aware of the needs of this world and, eventually, dream up inventive solutions for them.

Want to be useful? Want to feel like you're doing something that matters? Become an idea machine. Train yourself to be aware of the needs around you. Then learn how to think outside of the box to solve for X.