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How Billionaires Succeed by Using the Power of Enlightened Self-Interest

Posted on: March 1st, 2018

How Billionaires Succeed by Using the Power of Enlightened Self-Interest

Stop saying “should.”

That’s the advice from many self-made billionaires when it comes to getting other people to behave in ways that can benefit you. What you think they should or shouldn’t do does not matter.

By focusing on what you think other people should or shouldn’t do in a business or personal situation, you will probably become frustrated and maybe even angry when they fail to live up to your expectations—which will happen quite often. Your frustration and anger can easily make the situation worse.

Focusing on what other people should, in your opinion, do for you (or with you) is essentially no different than talking to a recalcitrant teenager or headstrong toddler. No matter the infallible logic of your argument, no matter the “obviousness” of your point of view, they are going to act as they think they should act.

The good news: There is a solution to this problem. Engage with their enlightened self-interest, or ESI.

Give to get

The idea behind enlightened self-interest is to identify some commonality in what you most want and what the other person most wants in a particular situation. Then, by acting to further the other person’s interests and help them meet their goals, you will ultimately be able to satisfy your own interests and meet your own goals. Essentially, you get what you want by helping the other person get what they want, because there is a direct link between those two outcomes.

Without question, every person has his or her own goals and agenda and is looking out for his or her own welfare. Even people who dedicate their lives to benefiting others are using their time, energy and resources to further goals they care about deeply. So while they may be highly altruistic, they are still acting in accord with their enlightened self-interests—helping others helps them.

The happiness of people we care deeply about also clearly falls under the umbrella of enlightened self-interest. When someone we love suffers, we suffer too. Thus, it’s in our enlightened self-interest to do whatever we can to make their lives better. Alleviating their suffering alleviates our own pain.

Entrepreneurial ESI

Here’s what that means to you as an entrepreneur. If you want someone to behave in ways that are supportive of your business endeavors, they will do so not because they should—but because you have shown them how it is in their enlightened self-interest to do so.

The upshot: If you can find a way to align your enlightened self-interest with their enlightened self-interest, it is highly likely you are going to get much support for your initiatives. If you can’t find a way, you probably won’t get that support.

Use the power of ESI the way the billionaires do

We’ve found that, based on extensive ethnological research, self-made billionaires are often exceptionally good at aligning the enlightened self-interest of everyone involved in a situation. Indeed, this skill has often proven to be foundational to their ability to build hugely successful businesses and, from there, create substantial personal wealth.

The process of aligning the enlightened self-interest of all involved is very simple, conceptually. Start by remembering what the self-made billionaires know very well: Individuals are motivated by what is most important to them—their goals and objectives. Whatever you think they “should” do is irrelevant—they will not act in ways that conflict with their goals and objectives.

Then take these steps:

Step #1: Be very clear about your own self-interest

Self-made billionaires are habitually very clear about how they define their own most important self-interests. For example, they commonly take a position that winning a particular deal is of paramount importance, to the exclusion of established and (otherwise) meaningful relationships. Self-made billionaires rarely let the opinions of most other people impact their agendas.

In stark contrast, most people want others to think well of them. For instance, they usually do their best not to destroy a meaningful relationship with someone over a business transaction. While there is nothing wrong with that approach, it does reveal that these people have different enlightened self-interests than some self-made billionaires.

A clear understanding of your own self-interests will enable you to negotiate with maximum effectiveness. Here’s a quick and easy way to determine your self-interests:

  • Write down all the things that are very important to you. Put a list together. Most people who engage in this exercise find, when they spend some time thinking about it, that they have a fairly long list. It might help to consider certain scenarios such as a business deal, your significant others and so forth, as specific circumstances and people can prompt ideas.
  • Rank your list. Ordering the items on your list helps you refine your essential enlightened self-interests. This will help you better understand the trade-offs you tend to make.

It turns out that self-made billionaires are able to fairly easily determine their self-interests. When they do, they become much more clever and shrewd negotiators.

Step #2: Identify the enlightened self-interest of the other parties

Determining what is extremely important to someone else is not always easy. Most people are very willing to hide their goals as they play roles they think will help them obtain what they want. That’s why self-made billionaires tend to spend a lot of time and effort unearthing what is strongly meaningful to the people they deal with. They rarely take anything at face value, and they look hard to see behind the curtain.

Take profits, for instance—something everyone in business wants more of. However, in a particular situation, would helping someone’s child get into a particular college be worth more to them than making a slightly higher profit on a business deal? It might be—and self-made billionaires are often able to find other ways of appealing to a person’s self-interest that go beyond money.

Step # 3(a): Find your areas of commonality

The more overlap that exists between your self-interest and someone else’s, the easier it is to move forward to pursue mutual success. Because your interests are aligned, it is fairly easy to reach agreement.

An important consideration is to make sure that the areas of commonality perpetuate. Changing circumstances can easily result in a lack of alignment. When this occurs, you have to take action to keep the endeavor on track—usually by appealing to the other person’s new enlightened self-interests. Ideally, the overlapping areas are stable and continue well into the future.

Step #3(b): Decide how to appeal to their enlightened self-interest

You have to ascertain their enlightened self-interest and the ways your recommended action can help them achieve their goals and objectives. At this point, you are aiming to match up aspects of your agenda with theirs.

Self-made billionaires are often very process-oriented when it comes to this step. They will frequently create a grid or matrix to determine where the overlap exists between their self-interests and the other person’s. Armed with that insight, they can appeal to the other person’s needs and goals.

Important: Enlightened self-interest isn’t about trying to persuade or convince someone that an opportunity exists. Instead, it’s about pointing out opportunities for success that do actually exist in a situation, for both of you, but focusing the discussion mainly on how the other person can benefit.

Step #4: Show how acting as you want them to results in them achieving their objectives

You have to powerfully and poignantly communicate how taking the actions you advocate will enable them to achieve their own goals and objectives—their enlightened self-interest. There have to be aspects of the business project that will get them what they want. Most often, this means showing them how they will substantially profit by heeding your call to action.

Self-made billionaires prove to be very adept at framing these discussions to focus on the other person—they make the conversation about the person sitting across from them, and not about themselves and their interests.

Example: Say the focus of a negotiation is on making money. A self-made billionaire will concentrate on how the other party will profit. Their own potential success will be downplayed or, even better, not mentioned.

Another smart move is that self-made billionaires tend to focus on appealing to a person’s short-term desires over their long-term dreams. It’s much easier to address concerns that are front and center than to tackle ones that require delayed gratification.

Ultimately, many people you deal with—or you want and need to deal with to boost your success—are going to be thinking mainly or exclusively about themselves and their goals. By leveraging the concept of ESI, you can gain a significant competitive advantage. Help others get what they seek, and you’ll find them taking actions you want them to take that will put you in the winner’s circle.


This report was prepared by, and is reprinted with permission from, VFO Inner Circle.  AES Nation, LLC is the creator and publisher of VFO Inner Circle reports.

Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra IS or Kestra AS. The material is for informational purposes only. It represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. It is not guaranteed by Kestra IS or Kestra AS for accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS.

Fusion Wealth Management is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. https://www.kestrafinancial.com/disclosures

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