Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the most well-known theories of motivation. It states that our actions are motivated by certain physiological and psychological needs, each more complex than the last.
A similarly important hierarchy worth discussing is the hierarchy of service.
In today’s episode, Dylan picks up from last week’s discussion about the state of play when it comes to service by taking a look at the three levels of the hierarchy of service.
- [04:07] The first level of the hierarchy of service
- [06:12] Why self-care is not optional
- [06:12] The second level of the hierarchy of service
- [10:59] The third level of the hierarchy of service
- [15:54] How you can start being of service to yourself
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:16] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And today, I wanna tell you about a time where I’m working at a summer camp. And I love summer camp. I think it’s a magical time for kids to be able to really find themselves in so many different ways where they’re living in community like humans are supposed to. And I really wanna help kids have outrageous fun and a wonderful summer. But I’m getting a sniffle. It starts off very small with a runny nose. But I’m working with these kids and I’m gonna continue to work with these kids have outrageous fun. And I don’t stop working and I just continue to plow through and show up for everything as my sniffle gets worse and worse and worse and I just keep going. And finally, at the end of the year, we’re at the year-end breakdown. And my boss looks to me and assigns me the task to go to the health lodge, find a bed, lay down, and go to sleep, and recover. And that really hurts me because I want to continue to serve this wonderful place that has been so impactful on me and the kids where we’ve had outrageous fun all summer. But I comply and it was too late because I ended up in the hospital the week after that with a case of viral meningitis, which had started off as a sinus infection. And as I was recovering from that, I started to understand that self-care is the first step to caring for others.
[00:01:49] Ladies and gentlemen, I tell that story when I was, you know, way more bulletproof than I am now. I was 18 at the time and I was working in a summer camp in Wisconsin. And I loved the camp. My kids actually go to the camp now that I used to work at. And it’s a magical time. And so, for being staff at that camp, I just I really wanted to be of service to my campers to help them have the experiences that were so impactful for me. The problem is I didn’t take care of myself. And that should have been first and foremost in my mind because what I’m gonna share with you today, I actually learned at that summer camp and that is the hierarchy of service.
[00:02:32] The hierarchy of service matches Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pretty closely. And it’s just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you can’t truly play at one level until you’ve mastered the one you’re at. And just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the hierarchy of service has a tier zero, which people don’t aren’t even aware that the hierarchy exists. But it’s still there whether we like it or not. And so, I’m bringing this up kind of to dovetail after last week’s episode where we talked about the state of play when it comes to service; that everybody wants to be of service but they always find sneaky ways to either not acknowledge their desires and then pin it on being of service to somebody else or they’re dealing with something that’s negative and difficult and so, they’ve decided service is the way out of it. And in both of those cases, they’re abandoning themselves in order to do this thing — either fulfill their own desires or try to fulfill old wounds. And in both cases, it’s extractive and not okay. So, let’s just talk about what the hierarchy of service is because I think at least in my experience, there’s a lot of times where people will come into my practice and say, what’s your financial vision? And the thing that they’ll tell me is, well, I wanna make enough money to go on a mission or I wanna go make enough money to serve my community or I wanna be able to donate more money. Like, okay. Well, all that’s great, so let’s start getting you more income. Oh, I couldn’t do that. Why not? Well, because I want this to be about others, not about me. And this is where they’re forgetting the hierarchy of service.
[00:04:07] Which brings this to what is the hierarchy of service? The hierarchy of service, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, starts at the bottom and works its way up. The bottom is service to self then service to others then service to a higher calling. And like I said, I didn’t make this up. I learned it at a summer camp. But it’s been a guiding light my entire life. And so, service to self is where it starts and it dovetails with the bottom two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you recall, the bottom two layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are the physiological needs — your food, water, sex, shelter, warmth — and then safety and security. So, those are the bottom two layers. But if you think about them, they’re serving yourself. You can’t be in relationship, which is tier three of Maslow’s hierarchy until you’ve conquered your physiological needs and your safety and security. This is service to self. And so, what I would say in terms of like being able to show up for service, it’s not exactly Maslow’s hierarchy because service to self includes things like getting to bed on time, eating good food, going for a massage, taking a break so that you can de-stress, making sure your needs are met, making sure your needs are stated, making sure that you are doing things that edify you and that are not extractive to you. We are all served when you serve yourself and that is a hard thing for a lot of people to hear. So, I’m gonna say it again. We are all served when you serve yourself because you show up better for each and every single one of us when you are serving yourself first. You need to be able to show up fully if you wish to be in service to anyone or anything. If you’re not fit, if you’re not fed, if you’re not financially stable, how can you reach out a hand and pull somebody out when you yourself are sinking? And like just stop and think about that. If you’re in quicksand and somebody who’s also sinking goes, “Don’t worry. I’m gonna get you out,” like you’re not gonna feel good about that. And that’s what it’s like when people don’t help take care of themselves.
[00:06:12] Self-care is not optional. You need to make time for your health and your wealth or you’re gonna be forced to make time for your illness and your poverty. There is no option here. When you don’t take care of yourself and there are people who do this and Lord knows that I’ve spent most of my life with helium hands volunteering for everything because I thought at some point they’ll love me after this one. I was grinding myself to dust. Like that’s the whole thing. Can you do it for a while? Well, sure. Does it eventually come back to bite you in the ass? Also sure. It will a hundred percent not be sustainable and you will crash and burn and the crater you leave will just be a disaster for everyone else around you. If you are a husband, a father, a wife, a mother and you’re burning yourself down for everyone else, you’re eventually gonna become a burden to everyone around you, which is why self-care is not optional. Can you ever truly be there for the people you love when in the back of your head, you know you fail to take care of the wolves that are coming to the door? Can you pay attention to your partner’s needs when your life is nothing more than a ticking timebomb? I think we all know the answers to that. The first layer of this hierarchy of service is service to self because if you aren’t a full, capable, empowered, embodied individual, you are a liability and not an asset.
[00:07:54] The second level to the hierarchy of service is service to others, which dovetails with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs of relationship and esteem. That’s tier three and four in Maslow’s, tier two in the hierarchy of service. And the service to others in this particular case, if you’re serving yourself, that means you’re gonna have a good relationship with yourself, that means that you are fit, that means that you’re well fed, that means that you’re financially stable, that means that as a self — a capital S self — you are solid and that you can show up for yourself. Then and only then can you then be of service to others, which means that you’re going to start working in relationship with other people. And so, being in right relationships — and relationships are part of being of service — it should enhance your life and not subtract from it. I’ll say that again, right? Relationships should enhance your life and not subtract from it. That doesn’t mean they’re easy all the time. But it means that those relationships edify you as a person that make your life better.
[00:08:54] And if you stop and think about this, one of the places that this is really easy to see is in marriages. How many marriages are not enhancing the lives of the people in them? They are extracting from them. They have objectified each other and they are extracting from each other and subtracting from their life. And I would be willing to bet you that in a lot of those situations where a marriage has become an extractive enterprise, one or both — and likely both — have failed to fully comprehend that the hierarchy of service starts with service to self. This is the wife and mother who’s constantly burned out. It’s the husband and father who is just has far too much on their plate and they think that they’re somehow being really noble by suffering in silence and never speaking up about their needs when in fact, they’re just extracting from everyone else around them because they can’t possibly be of service, even if they believe themselves to be.
[00:09:49] When you are in service to others and that relationship is a good one, it will edify you. It will be mutually nourishing both for you as the person providing service to another and for the person receiving the service from you. To put it in another way, when you are of service to others and you have mastered service to self, the service will fill your cup. And therefore, once your cup is full, you can pour back out to those people you most wish to serve. So, this service to others, again, it starts with service to self. With service to others, it is enhancement to your life and I cannot stress that enough. A lot of times people think that service has to leave you diminished, that service has to take from you. It has to hurt. And if it hurts, it’s extractive. And if it’s extractive, well, I want better for each and every single one of you listening. Put it aside. Walk away from it. Go back to that service of self because when things extract from you, it leaves a wound somewhere.
[00:10:59] Alright, level three. Level three is service to a higher calling. And in this particular case, this matches almost one for one with Maslow’s top of his hierarchy of needs and that is self-actualization. When we become in service to a higher calling and, ladies and gentlemen, when I speak of this, I want you to fully understand where I’m at. I have learned how to be of service to myself quite well. I am learning how to be of service to others and I am aspirationally talking about the service to a higher calling — this thing I can see in my future that I’m working towards at an appropriate pace. But I’m not there yet. And so, I’m going to paint you a picture of a place I haven’t been. And where I think that higher calling inherently is — and I see this a lot in the men around me, in my men’s groups. They start thinking about the systems that they live in, about the time they live in, about the legacy that they’re hoping to lead. That is, they’re thinking so much further beyond the here and now. And I think that we see this a lot and the — think about like the hero’s journey or you think about like the ascension of like the great men in history or whatever. Like they start off with like some journey in which they become educated. They become trained. That’s a service to self type of things. Then they go fight the great battle, right? That’s the service to others piece. And then they become like the noble king or the wise judge or something like that. That’s the service to a higher calling because now, their service is the legacy of the kingdom that they’ve won or the kingdom that they’ve created.
[00:12:35] But it’s not a stretch to go find stories that would, you know, point this out. We see this all over our literature, at least our classical literature, where the hero eventually becomes this wise person thinking about the legacy that they’re going to leave. And who doesn’t wanna leave the world better than when you found it? I think that once we’ve hit maturity and once we grow into ourselves as people, we all start thinking that that’s what we want. We want our children to grow up in a world that’s better than the one that we came into. And so, I think where people really go wrong here, though, is they start with this in mind. They’re completely consumed with legacy. What am I gonna leave behind? And this is where the people who like, they’re gonna leave an endowment for their kids and so, they just work tirelessly to put money away and to get investment properties that they can hand over. They completely ignore their kids. They burn themselves out. They die too young because they’re focused on this higher calling. Now, let’s just take that same scenario and replay it where they started with service to self first instead of this idea that they wanted to leave a legacy. In that scenario, they take care of themselves and they’re gonna live a much longer life because of it. And because they took care of themselves, they raised kids who were educated and safe and secure and had good attachment to their parents. And then as time goes on, they did exactly the same thing that they did in the other scenario — built wealth and endowment for their kids, investment properties or businesses to leave them. But their kids, because they had parents who serve themselves first so that they could be a better service to their children, were able to raise their children to be worthy of that legacy and to continue it moving on into the future. If you’re listening to this and thinking, well, I want to leave a legacy, my question to you is gonna be: how are you serving yourself? When was the last time you booked a massage? When was the last time you just read a book and went to sleep in the hammock in the backyard? When was the last time you signed up for and did something for you and purely for you? And if you’re saying, well, I ain’t got time for that. Well, you don’t got time to leave a legacy. And any legacy you leave is gonna be a bunch of broken pieces that your family’s gonna have to pick up after you were gone.
[00:14:59] And if this is really hitting hard for you, it’s because you know I’m right. I know on my own journey on the hierarchy of service the hardest thing for me to do was to learn to serve myself, which created the entire foundation. The men that I’ve had in my life, the mentors, the fellow travelers on the path with me have frequently had to remind me to do things like buy that pair of shoes or buy that rucksack. You’re worth getting up in the morning and going working out. You’re worth good food. It’s okay for you to be excited about this. And I have to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that the more that I’ve leaned into their sage advice to serve myself first, the more connected with my kids I have been, the higher my job performance, the greater my wealth.
[00:15:54] Ladies and gentlemen, the hierarchy of service has three layers: service to self, service to others, service to your higher calling — and in that order and only that order. You don’t have to like it, but it’s going to bat last and it’s gonna bat hardest and it’s gonna win. So, if you wish to be of service to others and if you wish to be of service to a legacy or a higher calling, you need to start with service to self. And as long as I’m bringing that up, a great place to start is getting your financial house in order, paying off your debts, making a budget, having a business meeting with your partner, having a financial vision, being excited about the wealth that you’re building, investing in new skills, asking for the job promotion, quitting a job so you can get a good raise. All of these things are service to self. All of these things are edifying. All of these things are good when done with the right intention. And is it possible for them to go wrong? Sure. Are you gonna go wrong? Probably not. In fact, I would hazard to guess that it is high time for you, the listener, to start serving yourself so that you can be of service to others so that you can leave a legacy that you’re proud of. I’d be willing to bet you that the majority of you have put this off for far too long; that your life is not nearly as glorious as it could be because you’ve put this off.
[00:17:30] And I know exactly how you feel because I remember going to the office hours of one of my professors and I just felt like the world was on my shoulders. And I walked in and I greeted the professor and I sit down in the chair and he looks at me and I ask my question about accounting. And he just goes, “What’s wrong, man? You’re not okay.” And all I could think of in the chair was like is it that obvious that I’m depressed and I’m burned out and I’m feeling so alone in this world? And I’m sitting there debating should I just say something flippant like, no, I’m fine. Of course, anyone tells you you’re fine, it’s not and he would’ve known that. Should I bare my soul to this man? What should I do? And so, I just told him. I’m not okay. And he looked at me, and this was a man that I’d had many conversations with, who knew what I was hoping to accomplish in the university. He looks at me across his desk and he says, “Dylan, I know this is hard because this is the first time in your life you’ve done anything for you. But at the end of it, you’re gonna be able to serve your family in ways you never could dream of right now.” And that just hit me like a ton of bricks because this was the first time in my life that I had pride in the schooling that I was doing. It was the first time in my life that I had refused to take second. I wanted to be at the best firms. I wanted to be at the top of my class because I deserved it; because I was serving myself so I could serve my family but I had to be really brilliant right here and right now. And when I walked out of his office, I walked with a renewed energy and purpose. And I wanted to get back to work so that I could finally serve my family in the manner that they so richly deserved.
[00:19:23] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button. Leave us a rating and review. And share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all @fiscallysavage. And head over to fiscallysavage.com to get our free tools, suggested reading, and everything else you need to take control of your financial life and live free.