Figure Out What People Need

What you do for others (and yourself) matters the most.

Jessica Wildfire
5 min readFeb 27, 2019


Photo by James Eades on Unsplash

Harvard professor. Corporate attorney. Brain surgeon. Detective. Olympic gold medalist. We love our titles, don’t we? There’s just one catch. Your job title can kill you, if you let it.

There’s a reason why I don’t use my “PhD” that much.

First off, half my friends have one. So it’s not special. The other half don’t give a shit. And anyone who doesn’t know me yet?

They don’t care, either.

Here’s what they do care about — what I can do for them. Make them laugh and cry at the same time. Or at least make them smirk.

Make them aspire. And think.

This means more than any job title or bio description.

My students definitely don’t care about my qualifications, and they shouldn’t. They only care what they can learn from me. So regardless of what you do for a living, there’s one inescapable truth:

Figure out what people want, or need. Or both.

Give it to them.

That’s the recipe for success, and a better world.

I’ve met all too many people in PhD programs who turn the letters into a rainbow. Once on a summer job, I even worked with someone who bragged about being a PhD student. He had no idea I had a PhD.

Oops. I forgot to mention it.

(Yeah, lots of professors still have to work summer gigs.)

This guy bragged constantly. It was hilarious. On a staff of 50, literally everyone knew he was “this close” to a PhD. They also knew that he tried to drive a golf cart down a flight of brick stairs.

Your title means nothing.

What you do means everything.

Some professors make a huge deal out of their degree. They insist on their class addressing them as “doctor.” One frenemy of mine used to make a point of subtly pointing out who in our department had three letters after their name, and who didn’t.

Herein lies one of our biggest problems.

Solipsism. We conflate leadership and authority with power. And we conflate power with…