What I like about Buddhist thinking, is the idea of non-attachment and selfless service for others. Also in order to serve others, one must first learn to take care of oneself, which is not an easy task. In fact taking care of oneself becomes an everyday responsibility, because even when one learns the skillful way to deal with anything that occurs, one must also keep on sustaining that habit. Sustaining is the daily practice, that is why masters train every day.
If we want to be the masters of our own lives, we should start to practice also taking care of ourselves every day. Once we overcome our own anxiousness and confusion, we can finally start truly benefitting others as well.
In everyday practice, we must first each morning take care of our own unskillful thinking and then we can turn our practice into selfless service of others, I think this is suitable enough philosophy for a layperson.
Reasons for the ‘best’ way to be helpful diverge after the point has been made that we might need to take care of ourselves first, that’s why we have different philosophies, different branches of Buddhism and even different forms of service.
Almost any rule is a simplification and thus cannot be fully applied. In the sales profession it is necessary to prioritize the needs of others from your current position. However, the Buddhist could argue that one might benefit all the people more, if you first would take the time to reach enlightenment yourself and then remain in this world and help people. Such people are called bodhisattvas and it is certainly interesting perspective.
In my current thinking, combining ideas from many sources and philosophies, I think the taking care of your own thinking in the morning and then retaining skillful practice through the day is a sufficient way for the layperson to progress. You make your life your practice by not attaching to the fruits of your labor. This kind of selfless service idea is strong in Bhagavad Gita and Zen schools of thought and I think it is rather practical philosophy.