In Danny Trejo's memoir Trejo, he recounts his youth as a criminal, his time in prison, and a moment in solitary confinement that changed his life. In 1968, while serving time in California's Soledad Prison, Trejo was caught up in a prison riot, during which two guards suffered injuries. Trejo was accused of throwing a rock that hit a guard in the head, and for that, he was sent to solitary confinement pending a trial. At that time, his alleged crime was a capital offense. Facing death in a tiny, cold, prison cell, Trejo turned to God for guidance.

He writes, "In that cell, I asked God for help and His answer was 'Help.' I understood: Help others. That's what people used to say in those meetings I went to. 'You can't keep grace unless you give it away,' they said. 'You have to be of service to others; even if they don't get it, you will.'"


A single word, whispered in the darkness of a cold, foul-smelling prison cell, transformed Danny Trejo's life. Instead of focusing on himself, Danny Trejo chose to center his life around service to others. This principle, which he has never abandoned in the half-century since he adopted it, rescued him from a life of drugs, crime, and misery and propelled him on an amazing journey that took him all over the world as a film star and a substance abuse counselor, and the owner of Trejo's Taco's and Trejo's Coffee and Donuts.

Dedication to serving others is a noble, and very personal choice, but it certainly has other applications in the business world as well. The heart of every business venture lies in serving others, whether those customers are external, like diners at a restaurant, or internal customers, like the various production lines at an auto plant. The key to a flourishing business is in satisfying the customer. Whatever your job or business model, keeping the customer in mind and striving to meet their needs will strengthen the relationship between you and the customer, build goodwill, and give you a reputation for quality and dependability. On a personal level, focusing on others will give you a sense of personal satisfaction. If your customer is happy, you can feel good about a job well done.

Today, Danny Trejo lives only a few miles from where he grew up. Despite the fame and fortune that came with his movie career, he has never forgotten what his life could have been. He still helps counsel those battling with drug addiction, keeping that promise he made long ago in Soledad Prison. For Danny Trejo, it's not a sacrifice, but an expression of gratitude. As he puts it, "Everything good that has happened to me has happened as a direct result of helping someone else. Everything."

And Lord knows that with all the chaos and danger in the world today, we can use all the goodness we can get.