Ep. 28 - The Science of Altruism: How Being Mission-Driven Fuels Personal Fulfillment and Business Success - with Dr. Richard Shuster


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Over the past decade or so, there's been a trend towards, or even movement of mission and purpose-driven companies and organizations. Brands are focusing on being a force for good – and many of these organizations are also succeeding in business.

And there’s science to support the idea that being more altruistic, being more purpose-driven, is a potent recipe for both personal fulfillment and business success.

To learn more about the science of altruism and why purpose is more than just trendy, I talked with Dr. Richard Shuster, a former IT executive turned  licensed clinical psychologist and the host of the popular, internationally downloaded podcast, The Daily Helping.


From Self-Centered to Altruistic & Purpose-Driven

Dr. Richard’s mission is to make the world a better place, help others and educate people on the science of altruism – but that wasn’t always the case.

Twenty years ago, Dr. Richard was “a very materialistic, corporate-focused, 20-something that just wanted to acquire things.”

He started an IT consulting company in a quest for fast money and ultimately won a bid on a government contract through the military. He wasn’t expecting the win, and it ended up pushing him in a direction that he hadn’t planned for. Then, while he was building the infrastructure around this consulting agency, he was nearly killed in a car accident.

The accident forced him to reflect on what he had really accomplished in those years.  He had made some money. He traveled. He enjoyed things...but he didn’t really have a passion or reason for doing any of it.

“And I was really quite ashamed of myself in that regard,” Dr. Richard says. “I recognized that if I lived, things had to change.”

This self-actualization resulted in a total career pivot where he walked away from the IT business he started. Dr. Richard then serendipitously started volunteering his time teaching parents about internet safety. He was doing something for free, doing something altruistically, and it felt good. Really good. Plus it enabled him to call upon his past experiences in technology which made him feel like what he had done in his previous career wasn’t a waste of time.

“When you take the profit out of it, when you strip away material things, when you strip away revenue streams, and when you get at what you're passionate about and find something that helps others, it really opens a degree of fulfillment that most people haven't experienced.”

This ultimately lead him to not only pursuing a career in the medical profession but also making it his personal mission to making a difference in the lives of others and taking an altruistic approach to everything he does.

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The Science of Altruism and What Can Get in the Way of Being Altruistic

Dr. Richard believes that if you want to succeed in business, you need to focus on helping others – period. Beyond that, altruism paired with purpose are the makings of a fulfilled and productive team.

The true definition of altruism is helping someone with no expectation of receiving something in return. There's no reciprocity expected. It's simply you wanting to do something good for the sake of doing something good.

And from a neurobiological standpoint, there is zero distinction between what happens in your body and brain when receiving and when giving. The reward center of your brain lights up and you receive a hit of oxytocin - “the love hormone.” When this hormone is released in your blood, it does a lot more than just promote trusting feelings towards someone – it also lessens levels of stress and anxiety and elevates one's mood.

The byproduct of all this is teams that are more fulfilled in their lives, are more engaged in their work, collaborate more effectively, are excited about what they're doing, have fewer sick days, and burn out less often.

So a workplace that is mission-driven, that promotes altruism, drives directly to the bottom line and employee satisfaction.

But taking an altruistic approach - one where you think of adding value or helping others first can be stymied by your company culture, fear and even what you see on social media.

To break through that inertia Dr. Richard tells us it starts with what’s important to you, which entails knowing your own personal values. Define your own mission and purpose. Align that to your work life. Yet finding those things that give you fulfillment and purpose don’t have to come from your day to day business life either.


Get Your Personal Helping

One of the things that Dr. Richard offers through his show is a service called Personal Helping, a coaching service grounded in neuroscience that he’s spent many years developing.

Listeners can enter for a chance to win Personal Helping at TheDailyHelping.com/Contest



Key Takeaways:


  • From a  business standpoint, there is the existence of a traditional kind of sales mindset that says you can sell anything to anyone. When your mission, your purpose, and your business is aligned with core values that you believe in and you promote, there is no need for those push-based sales tactics..

  • If your objective is to help your employees get what they want in terms of satisfaction and their goals – that is, if you are altruistic – your entrepreneurial mission and the goals of your organization are more likely to be fulfilled.

    • It’s one thing for businesses to find their purpose, but at the end of day, we all know that it starts and ends with individuals.

  • You don't have to be a healthcare professional to help people. It starts with recognizing what fires you up; you have to know your values first. If you don't know what your values are, then you're never going to have clear a direction.

  • After you know what your values are, you have to surround yourself with people who share that mindset or share that commitment – this is where the Jim Rohn quote comes in - "You're the average of the five people you hang around with."

  • The people you surround yourself with must be people who will hold you accountable for your actions.

  • We do need the fulfillment, but it doesn't necessarily have to come from any one place. If you can’t get it in the workplace, look for fulfillment outside of it (and vice versa).

  • If you are afraid to go out of your way to help someone within your organization due to the culture, look for fulfillment outside of it. For example, if you’re an accountant who wants to help kids, consider volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club instead of totally switching careers.





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