Why Being Selfish Can be Good for Your Business

(with Mike Malatesta)

Why Being Selfish Can be Good for Your Business
Mike Malatesta is an entrepreneur who has helped start, grow, and sell two successful waste management companies. He also created and hosts the How’d It Happen Podcast, where he explores stories, lessons, and wins with some of the most fascinating and successful people in the world.

In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss how being selfish can be good for our business. 

Key Takeaways

We will cover the following key takeaways:

  1. Sometimes we need to be selfish first, so we can figure out what we want and need. After we do this, it is easier to become a service leader and help others. 
  2. To get out of the valley of despair we can acknowledge that we are in control of our lives and can design a way for us to get to where we want to be. 
  3. We can build our confidence by surrounding ourselves with those who support us and by paying attention to all the good we accomplish.  

Mike’s Entrepreneurial Journey: How Selfishness Got Him Unstuck 

Mike said he became an entrepreneur when he was 4 years old. He remembers sitting on the curb outside of his parent’s house and watching the construction workers move their equipment to the yard. He thought it was so fascinating and he wondered if he could own something similar for himself. 

Later, when Mike studied in college, he got a job driving a garbage truck. He thought it was such a cool business so he talked to the owner for advice and eventually got hired in the waste business with a large business. He moved around with them for five years and became the youngest divisional vice president in the company, but then he got fired and had no idea what he was going to do. 

While he spent time trying to figure out his future, his friend, Butch, called him and said, “If you’re looking to start a business, I want to be involved.” At the time, starting his own business wasn’t anywhere on his mind. But because his friend had so much confidence in him, Mike began to have confidence in himself. 

“When he came to me with that question that gave me a little bit of confidence. I think it literally took me back to when I was a 4-year-old and that little entrepreneurial seed had been planted and then completely abandoned for many, many years. [Then] he brought the water,” Mike said.  

The biggest success Mike had was meeting Butch. His friend gave him the confidence he needed. Together, they created and built a business. Unfortunately, after 10 years, Butch passed away from injuries caused in a fire accident.

“It went from being, here’s the person that changed my life, to now he’s gone. I’m alone in this thing. And that was really painful,” Mike said.  “I really felt broken. I felt like I fell into this valley of uncertainty, this big gap that I just fell down into and I just wanted to stay there.” 

Mike spent time feeling sorry for himself and felt stuck. He didn’t know where to go or what to do. It was a moment of inspiration and realization that he should be selfish, that finally got him unstuck. 

“I designed a system in my life that got me exactly where I was and instead of complaining about it, blaming people, wanting the world to change my direction, I figured that if I designed the system to put me where I was, why couldn’t I just design a system to put me where I wanted to be?”  Mike said. 

Mike realized he had to be selfish. He had to focus on himself and what he wanted if he was going to get anywhere. He had to know where he wanted to be and create a plan for it. This understanding helped him get on a path to success. His company has since achieved more things and become much more valuable. After another few years, he ended up selling the company. 

Once we know what we want, we can create a plan and begin to pay for it. We have to put in the work, time, and money to get to where we want to be. Finally, we have to convince people that it’s a good idea so we can eventually become a servant leader and focus on others. 

Climbing Out of the Valley of Despair 

This valley of despair Mike found himself in is a common place many entrepreneurs fall into during their career. I’ve been there multiple times in my 25 year entrepreneurial journey. You may have these horrible tragedies, a lawsuit, or loss of a huge client. There are lots of things that can put us into the spot where we have to re-strategize and rediscover who we are and where we want to go.

I remember hearing Russell Brunson talk about when he got to one of those spots and he just remembered one day he got up and said he just wished he had a boss so somebody could fire him and he didn’t have to go into work. That’s the problem with an entrepreneur. It can be easy a lot of pressure when these things happen because the toughest choices fall on our shoulders. 

“Just decide or acknowledge that the reason you’re there is more than likely because you designed yourself to be there,” Mike said. “ If I was able to do that, I am able to design something to get me out of here too. It’s easier to stay in that despair, uncertainty valley, by not acknowledging that you’re responsible for being there by wanting to make it someone else’s problem.”

The reason_Blog

We should look at where we are as a result of what we have previously designed. Instead of looking at it as a failure, we need to ask, “How do I redesign the system, the process, the business, and my life to have the outcome that I really want?” Then we can implement that new system or process. 

How to Build Confidence 

A huge part of getting out of the valley of despair is building our confidence. When Mike got fired, he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have the confidence to start his own business. It wasn’t until after his friend showed his support that Mike felt confident in taking the leap of becoming an entrepreneur.

“If you don’t believe in yourself, no one’s going to believe in you,” Mike said. “You need to keep putting yourself back together with that confidence. If someone’s chipping it away, you need to have someone that’s gluing it back on . . . because as long as I have confidence, then I can keep moving forward.”

if you dont believe_Blog

Self-doubt is a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey. When things go wrong, we often doubt ourselves and lack confidence at times. To regain our confidence when these things happen, it’s a good idea to start by surrounding ourselves with supporters. When we surround ourselves with other people who are confident in us, it can help us feel the same. 

If we doubt ourselves, we can also look back on the past few months and pay attention to all that we have accomplished. Even if we may not be living up to an ideal, if we chart our progress overtime, chances are we made a lot but have been discounting it. Seeing this progress can help boost our confidence.

Learning to be Selfish 

One of the reasons we get to the point where we are in this valley of despair is because we have been too selfless. We put everyone before us, say yes to everything, and don’t take care of ourselves. 

This is exactly what happened to Mike. He put everyone before himself so he didn’t know what he wanted. In order to get unstuck, he had to get selfish. He had to put himself first and figure out what he needed and wanted. 

Dan Sullivan, founder of a strategic coaching program, said,  “My future is my property.” These five words really resonated with Mike. In order to own our future, we have to pay for it. No one else can. We have to invest in our lives and be in charge of ourselves. 

“Once I was able to get selfish, and I was able to create and understand this future that I wanted, I had a much better chance of getting there,” Mike said. “I could explain it to everyone on the team and then I could actually be selfless again.”

Connect with Mike

Thank you so much Mike for sharing your stories and insights with us today. To learn more about or connect with Mike:

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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