Doing Well by Doing Good

We’re taught as children to extend a helping hand to those in need, but few of us follow this sage advice as the pressures of life kick into high gear.  What sounds good in theory is rarely practiced, especially when self-interest is the driving force.

By nature, The Olympic Games are about achieving personal bests.  Years of dedication and sacrifice lead to the ultimate world stage of competition. If there were ever a time to be selfish and focus on winning, this would be it.  Yet one stunning example of compassion and humanity warmed the hearts of millions around the world, unfolding in the least likely of places.

American distance runner Abbey D’Agustino stumbled during her 5000-meter race, causing her to trip rival runner Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand.  Under the bright glare of competition, most athletes would barrel ahead toward their own success: Track and Field is a tough sport, after all.  Yet Abbey showed her character was stronger than her competitive drive when she stopped running to help Nikki off the ground.

Abbey hadn’t realized she’d suffered an injury of her own until she fell to the ground while assisting her competitor.  As if scripted by Disney, Nikki returned the act of kindness by helping the injured athlete get back up and limp to the finish line.  While neither came even close to a winning time, the two athletes who had never met embraced at the finish line before D’Agustino was whisked away in a wheelchair for medical attention.

You couldn’t manufacture a better story of sportsmanship: two women sacrificing their medals to help their fellow human beings.  The power of karma must have been present, as judges advanced both runners to the next round.  They will also both soar economically given eager sponsors will want to endorse the two athletes with extraordinary hearts.

Pursuing our ambitious careers, it’s easy to think we have to choose doing good OR doing well.  We’re either helpful and compassionate toward others OR we achieve great success.  Truth is, it’s an AND not an OR.  By lending a helping hand when others are down (both literally and figuratively), we not only do the right thing, but also end up enjoying more sustainable commercial success than had we selfishly focused on our own objectives.

While counterintuitive on the surface, doing the right thing actually leads to greater rewards in the end.  Take the US swimmers who acted badly, selfishly tried to cover it up, and are now in a world of trouble; they’ll never attract another sponsor again.  While the compassionate runners will undoubtedly share the light of economic prosperity AND the comfort of knowing they made their countries (and families) proud.

Muster up the courage to do the right thing.  Make it an AND instead of an OR, and you’ll be well on your way to your own Gold Medal of doing well AND doing good.