Stimulatingly Useful

Razzle-dazzle tactics that attract attention eventually get boring, hurt, and then become repulsive. Want attention? Be stimulatingly useful.

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  1. Hi Raam,
    This has stuck in my mind since I read it, partly because I didn’t understand it completely right away. What does it mean to be stimulatingly useful? While I think being stimulating in the sense of being thought-provoking or interesting can often be useful, there are many ways we can be useful that are not particularly exciting or stirring. Can’t being of use or service to someone else be an end in itself? Does it also need to be ‘interesting’ to an outside audience?
    Having said that, since we all need attention, at different levels and to different degrees, being of service is probably a more healthy way to satisfy that need than ‘razzle dazzle’. But then, who will do all the things that need to be done that are routine and humdrum? 🙂
    Still not done thinking about this. It’s entirely possible that I have misinterpreted you completely and gone off on a tangent :-). But it’s made me think and to that extent this thought of yours has certainly been stimulatingly useful! Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Chhaya,

      ‘Stimulating’ in this context does not necessarily mean ‘exciting’ or ‘stirring’, but rather it implies usefulness in a way that can be felt. Also, this particular thought is in response to seeing others trying to get attention by ‘dazzling’ or by being attractive in a way that is only temporarily stimulating (publishing blog posts with ‘catchy’ titles, for example).

      Usefulness–true usefulness–no matter how humdrum or routine, is always far more stimulating than a temporary flash that gets our attention. And, that true usefulness will always be a much greater force of attraction in the longrun. For example, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King may not have seemed in life to be particularly stimulating (there were exceptions, of course, but on a day-to-day basis they were regular people). However, their actions over the course of their life were so useful that those people are still stimulating even today, long after their death!

  2. Yes, I see what you’re getting at.
    My comments stems from a rather frustrating situation that I was in recently. I have been trying to set up a database in my little town in south Germany, where people who want to make themselves useful to the community can get an overview of what needs to be done. In the course of putting this information together, I have discovered that people who want to bring down garbage from Mount Everest far outnumber those want to clean up the local park :-). Considering that the former is much more difficult to do than the latter, I suspect that one of the reasons we are drawn to more ‘challenging’ work is that we sense that it makes for a better story to tell our peers.
    It all boils down to intention in the end, doesn’t it? People like Mother Teresa were not consciously trying to be stimulating. They were simply doing the work they felt moved to do, and in so doing, they were inspiring to others.
    And that is kind of my point. Whether or not other people find us stimulating or inspiring is not something we can control. I don’t think we can set out to be ‘stimulatingly’ useful. We can only set out to be useful. We can ask ourselves: What needs to be done? And what am I best qualified to do? Sometimes our best qualification can be our willingness to do what needs doing but noone wants to do!

    • Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts and story here, Chhaya. 🙂

      You said, “People like Mother Teresa were not consciously trying to be stimulating. They were simply doing the work they felt moved to do,”. Right: ‘work they felt moved to do’. In other words, work that felt stimulating to them. Work that made them feel stimulatingly useful.

      I’m not saying that we should figure out what stimulates others and then be useful in that way. I’m saying that we should be stimulating useful in our own way. Sleazy marketers and advertisers are not doing what feels stimulatingly useful to them, they’re doing whatever they think will be stimulating to others, regardless of how they feel about it.

      If cleaning up the local park feels ‘stimulatingly useful’ to you, then you shouldn’t let anything discourage you from pursuing that. Your passion, enthusiasm, and belief in your work will attract others with whom that calling resonates. The number of people willing to remove trash from Mount Everest may out number those willing to clean up the local park, but I’m sure you need far fewer people to clean up the latter than the former. 🙂