When we think of acts of humanity—of helping people—we constantly think of charity, donations, humanitarian missions, etc. These are all examples of goodwill and important ways of helping people. But they are not the only way, and most likely not even the most important or the most efficient one.
The best way to help people is to be competent.
The doctor who studies and works aggressively is better able to help more people than the lazy doctor who donates part of his earnings to “charity.” This is true for economists, engineers, mechanics, police officers, athletes, teachers, etc. Basically for any profession, with the exception of gangbangers and loan sharks, if those can even be considered one.
This competence must be followed by ethical values to be constructive. Good lawyers can destroy lives if they don’t have gregarious values and good engineers with destructive intentions can create atomic bombs. Competence does not necessarily come with good values.
But that is not the point. The point is: if you really want to help people, spend more time perfecting your craft, no matter what it is.
Sometimes I feel we overvalue volunteering and charity, as if it was the ultimate altruistic devotion, even if we just dedicate a few hours a week in unskilled (easy) service.
It is not because it is not important. It is, and I do participate in projects like these. But that is a very limited way of helping others. Nobody should be proud of “helping people” simply because they take part in projects like these. It is something that must be done and has its benefits, both socially and personally. But it is not the best, let alone the only way to help people.
Charity is easy. Making a difference is hard.
Jordan B. Peterson says that the 20th century saw the greatest atrocities that a human being can do. He clearly refers to German Nazism.
Regarding Hitler, Peterson says that the one reason why we don’t have other Hitlers is not because people lack his genocidal and authoritarian impetus; it is because they lack his organizational genius.
Hitler was not able to cause the harm he did because he was evil beyond the ordinary. There are many people who think similarly to what he thought. Many indeed. But hardly anyone is as motivated, intelligent, disciplined, and engaging as he was.
Just as evilness is not enough to cause extraordinary evil, goodness is not enough to cause extraordinary good. It takes competence.
People-who-help-other-people should not focus on small jobs here and there for small causes. This can and should be done, but it is marginal. People-who-help-other-people should focus on 1. acquiring rare skills and refining them to extraordinary levels, continuously, for years and years; 2. find other people with rare and refined skills; and 3. work together with these people on smart projects.
Focusing on being your best is the greatest act of humanity there is.
Original text in Portuguese.
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