(Article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com)
You want a nice car. You want a nice house, and lots of money so you can do everything you want — I get it. But those things aren’t going to make you successful.
It’s like Jim Carey said: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
It’s what you give that counts.
How I started giving.
At 24, after half a lifetime of stealing and mooching, I came across a Zig Ziglar quote that struck me: “You’ll get everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.”
It made perfect sense. But what did I have to give? I’d been expelled from school, rejected by the army and, to complete the failure trifecta, I’d dropped out of college. Who could I possibly help?
It turned out to be more than I could imagine.
Since all my relationships had been fiascoes, I figured I could at least give advice on what not to do. Following Zig’s advice, I wrote to help people avoid the insane pain I had experienced in love. And it gave me purpose.
That purpose got me published.
The audiences were small at first, but I got positive feedback. A couple people emailed me saying they needed to hear what I wrote. Nothing huge. But those simple comments were the first gold coins on my new giving path. It felt insanely good, and I was inspired to get better at writing so I could help more people.
But in order to improve, I had to give up the habits that kept me from giving.
What I gave up in order to give more.
Porn was one of the first things to go. It didn’t inspire me to think outside of myself, or to be better than I was; it was all take, no give. And I realized porn was a big part of why I was still living at home at 24 — it kept me complacent. Ditto for my laziness and negative thinking.
So I let those selfish habits go.
Immediately I had more time and energy to write. I trimmed the fat from my life and started a positive feedback loop:
I got more positive responses from my audience, which got me published on bigger sites, which gave me opportunities to make money writing, which boosted my confidence to take bigger risks, which got me on even bigger publications. That allowed me to help more people, which increased my pay, my opportunities, my confidence, my value and my happiness.
What I got by giving.
As giving became my lifestyle, I gained all the traits I needed to be successful: discipline, confidence, commitment, patience, responsibility, honesty, resilience, vulnerability, focus and perseverance.
I still lived with my parents when I started, but I was able to save enough money in four months to move out on my own. When I took the leap, I had faith to back me up. I knew I wouldn’t fail because I was giving everything I had to make life better for others.
It wasn’t a cakewalk though.
I remember looking at my thirtith straight bowl of white rice and thinking, “I can’t do this.” But writing for other people was all I wanted do — it was the only thing that made me feel whole. So I swallowed the hunger and pushed on. When rent was due, I always had the money.
As I broke my personal barriers and struggled to succeed, my stories became more visceral, more valuable. I wrote on an empty stomach more times than I can count, but my heart was full. I was giving everything I had to help people just like me. I knew I would make it.
And six months later I finally made my break. I got published on Entrepreneur.com, which gave me a larger audience and more people to help. I gave that audience everything I had and wrote the best articles of my life. My performance didn’t go unnoticed.
International companies saw what I had to give and they liked it. I got jobs that paid more in a day than I used to make in two weeks. When people saw my success, they hired me as their coach.
After a year of writing for millennials, I decided to take my giving to the next level. I created a website where I could share world-class advice on succeeding in business, life, and love. Giving has given me everything I love: my career, my independence, my happiness, and my purpose.
How you can give more.
If you want to reach the next level of success, whether you’re at a dead-end corporate job or living with your parents, think about what you can give.
What talents, experiences, and passions do you have that could make life better for others? What’s preventing you from sharing those things? What could you give up in order to give more?
I found the answer to those questions with these daily habits:
Start a journal.
I can’t recommend it enough. Writing every detail of your day helps you discover what makes you valuable and what detracts. So get to know yourself with 15 minutes of nightly journaling.
Self-knowledge is your gateway to giving.
Forget about relationships.
Focus on you, on giving yourself everything you need to give selflessly. Resume relationships when you’re rich from all the people you’ve helped. Then you’ll be able to love someone for who they are, not for the insecurities you’re trying to fill.
Plan your day.
No matter how good your intentions are, nothing good gets done unless it’s scheduled. So plan everything. Plan your studying. Plan your working. Plan your exercise. Plan everything you want to do, and set goals for avoiding time wasters like TV and social media. Brainstorm what you’ll do tomorrow every night before you go to bed.