TobyH: Me being a huge skeptic of the nature of my being, can not find the middle-ground between lowering my own entropy because it benefits myself, and lowering my entropy because it benefits others. Are the two mutually connected and logical?
Tom: Short answer: Yes, the two mutually connected and logical. They are mutually supportive and each can be the logical consequence of the other.
Longer answer: your confusion (and your friends confusion) is one of perspective.
From the perspective of the Big Picture, it is a fact that for most of us, most of the time, the biggest, best, and most direct thing we can do to help others is to decrease our own entropy (evolve the quality of our consciousness). In the Big Picture, growing up, evolving, becoming love is the goal (love is about others not self). You cannot make anyone else grow up, you can only encourage them to grow themselves -- change themselves by lowering their own entropy. Making them more or less happy and comfortable in PMR is irrelevant unless doing so helps them grow spiritually (evolve the quality of their consciousness). You can only indirectly help others evolve their quality if you have evolved your own. You cannot teach what you do not know. You cannot help others be what you are not.
The big Picture is the perspective of Big Truth -- what is fundamental, what truly matters in the larger sense. Intent is the motive force (the thing that makes a difference, that causes change) in the Big Picture.
The little picture perspective, without a Big Picture perspective to guide it, is the perspective of ego, needs, wants, desires, and expectations. Action, doing, or deeds is the motive force (the thing that makes a difference, that causes change) in the little picture. A deep-dish existentialist sees no other existence except the little picture. To them the little picture is the whole picture. From the perspective of the little picture, your deeds must be either self serving (selfish), serve others (altruistic) or serve no one (trivial). A good person with some intuitive understanding of the larger reality trying to improve themselves who is trapped within this extremely limited viewpoint (reality frame) may come to believe that doing altruistic deeds (acting altruistically) is the only viable growth path since selfishness obviously leads to self-centered ego indulgence -- their intuition says that a self-centered focus is contrary to love, a detriment to progress.
False little picture logic creates a catch 22 for the would be altruist. Any effort to improve themselves is selfish, yet to be truly altruistic requires self improvement. Logic dictates that one must be selfish to avoid being selfish. The logical conclusion is that altruism is a fraud. People may try to act altruistic to impress themselves or others or because they think they should act that way, but nobody is actually altruistic. Altruism is a fantasy, a logical and practical impossibility, a theoretical concept only. Logically, that leaves only two actual states of being: selfish and trivial. That is the fundamental belief of existentialism, objectivism, and many other isms -- stated or non-stated. One may rationally act with kindness because one may wish to live in a kind world -- i.e., kindness is practical and self serving.
If you accept the limited little picture view of reality and the limited logic that goes with it, then, by that logic, there is nothing other than the little picture, intent is irrelevant, action is all, there is no larger purpose, spiritual growth is a fantasy, and the self is the fundamental reality. That is why many logical (smart) people who are trapped in the little picture end up with these beliefs. Yet, whether they admit it or not, their intuition knows better. That is why many deny the intuition along with emotional content and suppress both as an unreliable trick of the brain.
If one accepts their limited view and limited logic one will always end up with the same limited answer, just as they do. It is a trap — a dead end that goes nowhere.