Oops, I Did it Again

I know not to read the comments. I know that.

It’s something that I tell other people about social media – “Don’t read the comments!”

But, well I forgot for some reason. I don’t know why. When I came across a meme featuring Prime Minister Scott Morrison, put together by people bemoaning about how Australia gives $4 billion worth of foreign aid to other countries and not to our struggling farmers, I should have kept scrolling. But I didn’t. Rookie mistake.

The comments were different versions of “this is disgraceful, let’s look after our own first!” and of course “Charity begins at home!”, not to mention numerous comments on how awful all of our ‘corrupt’ politicians are.

As I read through these comments from people, whom I would consider ignorant and uneducated on the wider issues around foreign aid and global economics, I was stuck. I disagreed with everything that was being said and much was based on misinformation, which made me angry. I imagined that the type of people who are commenting would be those who are unwilling to change their opinion, or have an educated discussion, or any sort of discussion with anyone who disagreed with them without it turning into an argument with personal attacks and name-calling.

I found myself asking, if generosity is what I talk about and seek to live out, how can I be generous to these people? What does generosity look like in this situation?

I think it starts with self-reflection and asking some hard questions.

Am I willing to change my opinion?

Do I get argumentative with people who disagree with me?

How can I serve the discussion around issues where there is conflict?

The answer to the first two questions is ‘it depends’, which is a deeper conversation for another time.

The third question about how I can serve the discussion, the answer is to participate in it, which is what the next post will be about…

Not Just for Kids – A Simple ‘How-to’ Guide

We love the idea of teaching kids about being generous – because who wants to be the parent of ‘that selfish child’?

No one, that’s who.

But kids learn by osmosis. Just by being in the same proximity as their parents they pick up our patterns of behaviour and attitudes. If you don’t believe me, try swearing once around your small child. I guarantee that will become their new favourite word (or so I’m told, of course I wouldn’t know). Quite simple, if we are not generous then they won’t be.

So, quick, be generous!

But generosity is a muscle – it requires consistent practice. Try giving some money away to a person if you haven’t done it in a while. It’s painful, almost like working out for the first time in a few years.

Here is how we can find a way back to being the generous person we hope our kids turn into when they get older. It just takes some retraining of the ‘generosity muscle’, by doing the following:

  1. Start

This is the hardest part. Making a start. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Take $5, set it aside and think about someone you love/like/tolerate/loathe and buy them a coffee. Just try it out, they may love it and be thankful, or they may tell you that they hate coffee and throw it in your face – it doesn’t matter either way. This is your training, not theirs.

2. Keep going

Now that you’ve made a start, find other ways to use $5 a week to make someone else’s day better. Coffee, snacks, a card or a small gift. $5 won’t buy much but the amount is not important, it is the intent behind it that matters.

3. Grow

Now that you are in the habit of being generous with $5 a week, take on the challenge of growing it. That can either be through multiple $5 acts of generosity or pooling more money together and making a larger impact on someone. A dinner perhaps, a donation to a charity, buying fuel for someone’s car or groceries for another family. Watch how people respond, but most importantly notice how you feel about yourself.

4. See Progress

Momentum builds and it changes the way you turn up in life. As you progress in your generosity journey, you will create different relationships with those around you because you are approaching them with a generosity mindset. You are becoming a different person now – a better version of you.

5. Bring a Friend

No one likes to travel alone…well some people do, but it’s still nice to have someone around sometimes. Find someone around you and take them on the journey of building their generosity muscle – it will change your life and theirs.

5 simple steps to work your generosity muscle and create a positive change in you, your kids and the world.

Have I missed something? I would love to hear from you!

It Made the News…

On one hand I’m surprised, but when I take the time to think about it, it doesn’t surprise me that much. I mean, weird things make the news.

This one was not so much weird, but almost unremarkable, comparatively.

A man in the north-west corner of the USA bought breakfast for himself and dozens of other people. He was eating alone and upon finishing his meal, on his way out he paid for his meal, and then the meal for every other person in the restaurant. He left before anyone found out.

It cost him a total of $200 and it impacted people so much that it made the local news. Whilst I am sure we would all agree that it was a wonderful act of generosity, was it newsworthy? Especially when we compare his gift of $200 to the millions that people give away each year – why is this a story and not something else?

Here is why I think that this act of generosity created such an impact.

It was breakfast. People love eating breakfast out, for me it is quite a treat. And if someone were to pay for that breakfast, then I would tell people about it.

It was random. People had no expectation that someone would pay for them. It is not a normal experience we encounter, especially a total stranger at another table eating breakfast.

It was immediate. The time between when the generous act was done and the financial impact on those in the restaurant was very close.

It was thoughtful. The recipients would have had many things they want to spend money on, and all of a sudden they have ‘extra’ money after not having to pay for their own breakfast. This experience would have felt like they actually made a profit.

It creates hope. Two types of hope; hope that maybe one day, someone will buy us breakfast too, but also hope that good people are still around, perhaps sitting at the table next to us without us knowing it.

I have done a similar thing before. After having dinner with a group of people, I paid for some of the meals of my friends as I left. To this day I don’t know if they know, or if the restaurant charged my friends after I left and got paid double. I do know that I feel weird about that memory, perhaps because I didn’t make it into the news.

Learning From Those You Don’t Like

You can learn from anyone. You can learn from everyone. No matter what age, gender, culture, background or life experience. There is always something you can learn. You can especially learn from the person that you respect the least.

To be able to do that requires a special kind of attitude that recognises that even if you disagree with someone about most things or dislike a person with a great deal of passion, they still have something to offer you. They can teach you something about something.

On the flipside, even if someone disagrees with you about most things or dislikes you with a great deal of passion, you have something to offer them. You can teach them something about something.

As with most things that are difficult, it requires an act of generosity. The act of generosity in this is to recognise the fact that learning can come from anyone, and then to seek it out. Of course, it is easier said than done, but it is an act of generosity towards others and towards yourself also.

Towards others because when you seek to learn from someone you actually communicate to them that they have value. What greater generosity could there be?

Towards yourself because in seeking to learn from someone else, especially someone that you don’t like, creates a posture of humility, ready to learn and ready to grow. That is an amazing gift for you.

When it doesn’t feel good…

I recently ran in a 10km community run. I am fairly new to this process of waking up early on a Sunday morning and running around with total strangers, this was my second time. Having done it before and surviving I thought I had it nailed, so I was very relaxed before the event started.

After the starting gun (horn) sounded I was off, running strongly, overtaking people left and right but soon I began to struggle. I couldn’t get into a rhythm and I barely felt comfortable the whole time. As you could imagine, people began to overtake me – which did not feel good at all. I thought I would have the strength and stamina to catch up to them again; I did not. My focus shifted from the people who had already overtaken me, and I concentrated on not letting anyone else past. That did not work either. People kept coming from nowhere and running past like I was standing still.

Finally, I shifted my focus to just finishing the race. Not stopping. Just put one foot in front of another. This I did achieve, and I enjoyed crossing the finish line, but it didn’t feel like a good run. I felt defeated and embarrassed that so many people overtook me. Clearly I was out of my league.

It turns out, though, I ran a personal best time. The first few km’s I ran out of my skin, faster than I have ever run before, which is why I slowed towards the end – and why I never felt comfortable. I was out of my comfort zone the whole time. If this was the best I have ever run, then why didn’t it feel good?

This was me smiling. Everything hurt. Hooray for participation medals.

I think it has something to do with how we perceive progress. It is important to feel like we are getting somewhere. Progress, even if it is a tiny thing, is incredibly motivating.

However, progress, when based on comparison to other people’s success is incredibly demotivating because we see all the people in front of us (or overtaking us) in the journey. Plus, outside of an actual race, we don’t know where other people have started or where they will finish – they are most likely running a completely different race to you.  

The best way to create progress in our lives is to focus purely on ourselves. Not on the other runners. If we continue to put one foot in front of another, concentrate on the race we are running, looking to be better than we were last time/yesterday then we will see progress much clearer than if we are looking left or right. That way, even if it doesn’t feel comfortable, it will still feel good.

How to get Your Business involved with a Not-for-Profit (5 Easy Steps)

It’s nice to know that you want to do something to make the world a better place. It’s a great feeling. But then how do you do it?

Here are some key points which are the first things you can do to create something long lasting and sustainable for your business.

  1. Find an alignment in purpose

The first thing to do is to figure out what cause your business is naturally aligned with. If you are business that is food based, then maybe food based charities are your thing. Do you provide education and training? Then maybe causes around education would fit. Are you in the health field? Then something health related. Do you help businesses grow? Then definitely Opportunity International and microfinance are for you.

If you are unable to find an easy fit, take some time to think about what will connect with your business as a whole. You can select something that you care about individually but that will most likely end up becoming your own thing that may not create buy in from other staff. Plus, if you ever leave, your passion for that cause goes with it. Finding a solid alignment in purpose will create a long term relationship with a charity and long term solutions with impact.

2. Work out what your impact will be and how you will measure it

What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? Be specific about it and outlandish. I know of people who want to help 1 million people out of poverty or become a millionaire of souls. Once you have your numbers, figure out exactly how you will measure that.

3. Choose an organisation that will fit

Now is the fun part. You get to choose an charity that is working in the area you are interested in, can facilitate the impact you are after, can report back on that impact and are willing to work with you to help make it a reality. There are quite literally, thousands of charities to choose from, so you get to shop around.

4. Create a plan with that organisation

Put something in writing. Not only does that help make it official for you and your business but it also lets the charity know that you are in it for the long haul. It is very helpful to be specific about how you are going to achieve the impact you are aiming for. Without a plan, your impact is just a bunch of meaningless numbers. Any charity worth their salt will help you with this process.

5. Stay Connected to it

This is done through ensuring the plan and goal are connected with your business by keeping it somewhere we people (yourself included) are going to see it. Create a tally to update, keep information available to all staff and ensure the charity are regularly in contact with you. Invite them to the office to chat to the staff – we love that stuff!

Doing these five things will set you up to create a meaningful connection with a charity, and help you with your greater purpose of making a significant positive impact on the world.

3 Reasons Why Your Business Should be Involved with a Charity

Whether it is your own business or you are working for someone else, here are three benefits for supporting a charity, with 1 proviso:

  1. Good for your staff

We know that today, more than ever, business employees are looking for much more than a pay-check to take home. They are looking for career advancement, flexibility, autonomy and purpose. A great way to assist employees to find their purpose is to align with a charity through generosity. That way, your staff know that as they help the business grow and become more profitable, they are creating a positive impact on the world as you donate some of the profit to a worthy cause. This can provide your staff with a greater sense of pride, well-being and team cohesion just by turning up to work on Monday morning.

2. Good for your customers

Having an intentional alignment with a charity can positively impact your customers as they understand that just by making a regular purchase they are also impacting the world positively. Like employees, customers are looking to do much more with their purchasing power and showing them that your business is good for the world will assist them in finding some purpose in their daily life.

3. Good for your business

Good news and positive experiences are some of the best marketing tools as word of mouth spreads. Making a positive difference through a relationship with a charity is good marketing material as existing customers notice it, get excited about it and entice new customers. It is also extra social media content for you as you highlight the charity that you support.

Plus it will also bring good staff to you as potential employees see the relationship with the charity as the point of difference between your business and others in the same industry.

Proviso: The charity that you choose has to be aligned with your values. It cannot be something that you do just get good press, people will see through that very quickly. The key is to build a relationship authentically with a charity that can grow over time and show real impact.

My First Pay-Packet

I can remember receiving my first ever pay-packet. I was super excited to get it. It was back before it was all sent electronically; I was called into the cash office of the supermarket and was handed an envelope with actual cash in it. I still remember the feel of that small, windowless, locked office, and the smell of the envelope in my hand. There was no greater feeling.

I’m pretty sure I blew most of it on unnecessary stuff. But why not? It was my first one.

I’m sorry to say that my financial decisions didn’t really improve too quickly. I would buy clothes I didn’t need, eat out way too much and generally have nothing to show for myself after payday.

I’ve learned some hard lessons over time, most through necessity. I would like to think that I have a much better understanding on how to run my finances now, but occasionally I will buy something with no purpose or positive impact. I’m only human, right?

When we think about those who are living in poverty and how they spend their money, how would we feel if they spent what little they had on something wasteful.

There is the classic comedic line:

I didn’t want to give some money to the homeless person I walked past because they would just spend it on drugs and alcohol. Then I realised, that’s what I spend it on!

Why do we have greater expectations on people living in poverty than we would put on ourselves?

What is really difficult to stomach is the reality that many people living in poverty in Asia and Africa handle their money much better than most Australians. There have been numerous studies done which show that a cash injection to a family living in poverty, rather than being spent on alcohol, drugs and gambling, go towards education and health. Exactly what we would hope the money gets spent on.

And if the money can be in the form of a small loan to fund an entrepreneur who can start a business and work her way out of poverty, even better.

It is easy to forget that we can learn a great deal from other people, even if they are living in a slum somewhere in India, and even if it is about how to handle our finances.

Don’t Read This.

Don’t Read this. My Journey is not the same as yours.

I’ve seen quite a pattern emerging, and to be honest, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Everyone has 5 tips for this, the best 10 ways to create that, my two biggest takeaways from this. Heck, some of those I have created.

Whilst I love all of that content, and I think we can learn so much from each other, at some point what has worked for you will not work for me. If I just keep pushing through the tough times with an idea, or a business, or a strategy, will I actually come out the other side as successful as you? As wealthy as you? As well known as you? What if my idea, or business or strategy is awful? Will your simple strategy for super-fast business growth make me millions then?

Not everyone wins the gold medal. Not everyone tops the list, someone has to come second, or third or fourth. Is that still successful?

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I genuinely want to ask the question about suitability and blanket promises of success.

At some point wisdom will be required, right?

And what can wisdom teach us? We cannot escape suffering in life, that is guaranteed, but wisdom is choosing what is worth suffering for. It says ‘even if I spend all of my energy on my idea/business/strategy and it doesn’t work out and blows up in my face, it was worth it’.

Wisdom is harsh.

Tunnel Vision

Do you remember the last time you were really hungry? Not just peckish, but actually ‘missed out on lunch, breakfast was small and now dinner is late’ type of hunger. It is painful, but probably the hardest thing is that the only thing that you can think about in that moment is food. You can smell it, taste it and imagine how it would feel just being close to a meal that is ready to eat. Sure, you try to distract yourself and think about something else, but when the image of the perfect hamburger pops up in your mind then it’s all over. It’s food and nothing else that has your attention.

If you have experienced that, or something like it, then you are not alone. It is the psychological phenomenon of scarcity. There was a study that was done on the impact on people when they live on a starvation diet. Over time they grew so weak and thin, as you would imagine, but the impact on the mind was what caught researchers by surprise. They discovered that all the participants could talk about was food. They memorised recipes, compared food prices and shared about their favourite meals. So they decided to distract them with a movie but all they could focus on was the meals that the characters in the movie were eating. They were so consumed by what they didn’t have, their lack, that they couldn’t focus on anything else. They couldn’t see the big picture.

Not having enough of what you need can become the only thing that matters to you.

That is why the work of Opportunity International is so powerful. Providing a small loan to mothers who can start a business and create an income overcomes the scarcity problem, allowing people to shift their focus to other important things and make wise decisions.