What's In It For Me?

...all human beings listen to the same radio station, WIFM, or “What’s In it For Me?” So why volunteer yourself?

What's In It For Me?
Jim McNeal
April 4, 2023

Several years ago, I attended a Sales Seminar, and the speaker opined that all human beings listen to the same radio station, WIFM, or “What’s In it For Me?” This phrase doesn’t mean that we are all selfish, self-centered, or even bad people; on the contrary, to survive as a species, we have to be hard-wired to run decisions through a lens that puts our interests first. This hard wiring explains why getting people to volunteer is difficult regardless of the cause. An idiom in the Navy is Never Again Volunteer Yourself!  

So, why volunteer yourself?
Or, as a friend asked me recently when I described to him what the Severn Leadership Group was all about and my role as a Mentor, “What do you get out of it?” Frankly, I hadn’t given it much thought, but it is a good (yet cynical) question. What do I get out of it, or what’s in it for me?

For starters, every mentoring relationship I have had has been more rewarding for me than for my mentee. Once you get to a certain “seasoned” level in life, with lots of experiences (both good and bad) in your rearview mirror, your perspective is relatively fixed. Mentoring a younger and less experienced person opens your mind to different thoughts, life experiences, and cultural narratives, resulting in personal growth and betterment as a person, and, ultimately, as a Mentor.  

As members of society, we all have a responsibility and obligation to give back in some fashion to improve our communities. It is analogous to doing home improvements; the house benefits, but so do the people who live there: a true win-win.  

Volunteering can take on many different forms; Mentoring is simply one way to give back. In Romans 12: 6–8 (ESV), the Apostle Paul wrote, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, pin proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."

We all have Spiritual Gifts, and it is up to us - in fact, we are obligated - to discover those gifts within ourselves and use them to better the human condition. I challenge you to resist the temptation - that innate instinctual desire - to only think of yourself. Use your gifts to serve others and make the world a better place; Rest assured that when you do, an exponential number of blessings will come your way: I guarantee it!

Rear Admiral James Robert McNeal, SC, USN (Ret.) graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1986. After six years on active duty in the Supply Corps, he transitioned into the Reserve component, retiring in 2017. He serves as an adjunct professor at the Naval Academy as well as an assistant coach with the Academy's Sprint Football Team.

What's In It For Me?

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