It is Not About Me

By R. Keith Mobley, Principal SME, Life Cycle Engineering

I have a confession to make. I was born excessively self-centered and egotistical. All through my school years and into my early professional career it was all about me. I wanted and expected to be the center of attention, get all of the credit and earn praise for all that happened, not just what I personally accomplished but also for what those who worked with or for me did. I was not the most popular or well-liked by those around me, but the combination of self-confidence and ego fast-tracked my advancements, in spite of how others viewed me.

At some point in my maturation process, I realized that there was more to life than personal gratification. Perhaps it was when a young engineer was struggling with a problem and, in some small way, I was able to help him solve it and then observe as he received accolades for his success. Surprisingly my feeling of accomplishment at his success was even sweeter than being the center of attention myself. On the other hand, perhaps it was when one of my project teams took it upon themselves to accomplish the impossible even though they had been notified of their pending layoff. Seeing them enjoying the company’s, and their peers’, admiration meant more to me than any personal glory or praise.

The transformation from a self-centered, egotistical youth to an outwardly focused patriarch was not instantaneous. However, as my focus shifted it became more and more evident that helping others become successful was much more gratifying than anything experienced in my self-centered youth. Over time, helping others became almost an addiction.

Unfortunately, not everyone has experienced a similar transformation. We all see them every day in our business and personal lives. If my observations are correct, this is the reason that so many companies are struggling to be successful or even survive. When the majority of the leadership—I use that term loosely—is focused inwardly, more interested in personal gratification than the company or empowering the workforce, success and long-term survivability are threatened. You have seen it. New managers or executives abandon successful programs because they get no credit for them; they replace them with their pet programs and drive them hard to get short-term improvements.

Years ago, I had a conversation with an area manager in a large, integrated plant about a growing problem with his most critical production line. From our observations and measurements, the line was degrading and in immediate need of corrective actions. Throughout the conversation, his only concern was if he did nothing, would the line continue to run for at least three more years, when we was planning to retire. I am confident that each of you can add your own example—we see it every day.

If I could offer one suggestion that would make each of you more successful, it would be to forget about “me”. It took me entirely too long to learn this simple lesson: it is not about me but about how I can help others and, with their help, achieve mutual success. While your personal success might not be as outwardly visible, it will be much more profound.  

MOBLEY'S 35th LAW:
“It is not about me."

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s letter. Hopefully, it has raised a few thoughts that will help you take the next step in your journey to excellence. I welcome your feedback and am happy to respond to specific questions. You can reach me at [email protected].

Best regards,
R. Keith Mobley
Principal, Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.


Keith Mobley has earned an international reputation as one of the premier consultants in the fields of plant performance optimization, reliability engineering, predictive maintenance, and effective management. He has more than 35 years of direct experience in corporate management, process design and troubleshooting. For the past 16 years, he has helped hundreds of clients worldwide achieve and sustain world-class performance. Keith can be reached at [email protected].

© Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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