At the time I was annoyed and I spoke quite harshly to him. But he wasn’t doing what I thought he was doing and he was actually being a bit of a hero.
It was one of dozens of similar conversations. But something finally broke with this one.
I sat down across the table from a financial planner, and they began to tell me how many millions of dollars their firm managed and all of a sudden I realised, I didn’t care. I didn’t. I had no interested in their millions of dollars and how much money they were making for their clients. In that moment I discovered that I wasn’t motivated by that at all, which was a bit of a shame because I was working for a bank at the time and my job was to encourage financial planners to put their clients’ money into the banks products. I knew I was in trouble.
It was that moment I began to search for my purpose, something that I could get excited about, something that motivated me. It led me through a journey of community radio, Bible College, youth work, international development work and a master’s degree. I always say that my life has been a weird concoction of career snippets that have somehow managed to feed into each other and create the place where I want to be. Ending poverty, one family and one community at a time. Facilitating generosity to bring about significant change. I’m so glad I had that realisation many years ago and walked away from the banking world.
Not that there’s anything wrong with making millions of dollars for your clients, just as long as you give lots of it away and do something significant with it.
There are many lessons to be taken from nature. Like planting a seed, for example. It gets shoved in the ground where it is dark, moist and enclosed. Not normally a place that I would choose to hang around in. But it just so happens that this specific environment is the exact one it needs to break out of its seedy shell and begin to grow. From there, it is still in a dark, moist and enclosed area so it must keep struggling and growing in its infancy and head towards the light, finally breaking through the surface of the soil to begin its new life as a plant, which (depending on the type of plant I guess) looks extraordinary.
We can find ourselves in many a dark, moist (?) and enclosed place as we journey through life, and it is those specific environments that provide us exactly what we need to break out, grow and become extraordinary.
Generosity grows. When the need is great, when things seem dark and enclosed, when the local, communal and global problems seem overwhelming, generosity breaks through and becomes an extraordinary plant which gives life to the world.
I no longer feel afraid for our world, because I know that as the need grows, the generosity of people will grow to meet and exceed that need.
How’s your relationship with your mum?
This is a question fraught with danger.
You might have a great relationship with your mum. You might have an okay relationship. You might have a rocky relationship. You might have none.
You might have had a step-mum instead of, or as well as.
Maybe you’ve lost your mum. Maybe you never knew her.
Or, you might be a mum and love it. You might be a mum and like it. You might be a mum and tolerate it. You might be a mum and hate it…some days.
You might be a step-mum and trying to figure this whole thing out.
You might be expecting and about to become a mum.
Maybe you’ve never been able to become a mum.
Maybe you’ve lost a child.
It’s heavy. Mother’s Day, am I right? It’s a challenge to full encapsulate all if this into one day.
This we know for sure; we wouldn’t be here without mothers. Everyone has one. Everyone needs one. They carry such a burden for their children.
Imagine, as a mother, not being able to feed your kids. Not having some shelter for them.
Having to tell them they need to leave school and work because you don’t have enough money to pay for their education.
But then someone gave you a loan. A small one. Just enough to grow a small business, maybe a small vegetable farm or a tailoring business.
The regular income you earn means you can feed your children consistent, nutritious meals, give them a warm bed with a roof over their heads and a proper education.
You even employ other mothers from your community, giving them an income too.
This is more than receiving money from some unknown person so that you can feed your children, which is disempowering.
It is an opportunity that allows you to take care of your own family. One that you can pay back so that someone else can receive the exact same opportunity. That’s empowerment.
An empowered mother takes care of her family. She makes sure that everyone has enough. She raises kids that are educated and have dreams of what they can achieve in their life. She raises kids that love their family, respect their culture, and give back to their community. She raises the next generation of world leaders.
Empowered mothers are our ticket out of this mess. (‘Mess’ being the issue of global poverty, but also pretty much every other issue we have as a world).
And it all starts with a donation.
Just $100 is enough to provide one small loan to a mother in need in Indonesia or India.
Empowered mothers create a better world.
The conversation about emotional wellbeing is stronger now than it has ever been. We are all conscious of what wellbeing means to us and our community, but we are still a work in progress when it comes to putting good practices in place.
I came across some research from the New Economics Foundation about the things that we can do which promote wellbeing in our lives, guaranteed. It’s a bold statement, but here are five proven things you can do right now…
- Connect to the people around us – building relationships with people
- Being active in our bodies – looking after our physical health
- Take notice of the world – connecting with nature, seeing beauty in the things that have become normal.
- Learn New Skills – trying something new and challenging ourselves
- Give to others – being generous.
All five are about looking beyond our current situation and seeking to change the place we are currently in. Generosity really rounds this list out.
Generosity is good for whatever ails you because it shifts your focus from you. Instead of being trapped in your own mind, ruminating on your own thoughts and challenges, it pushes you to reach out to someone else who may be in the exact same situation. A generous act of checking in on someone to see how they are going, buying them a coffee, giving some time and attention to them, is an incredible gift…to you.
Give yourself a gift by giving to someone else.
“Can you rephrase that to a statement that serves you better?”
That was the question I was asked by a good friend, but I wasn’t sure if I could. I still don’t know. I think it is just the truth, I am exhausting to live with and the more that I recognise that the easier my world becomes.
Growth is my passion. I love it. I have a long way to go and there are many times where I much prefer comfort over growth, but I love to consume as much as I can around areas of leadership, psychology, entrepreneurialism, random information and anything else that I can get my hands on. Be that through podcasts, books or attending events, I have developed a deep love of learning.
I do forget sometimes that not everyone loves what I love – especially my wife. She has her hands very full running and growing a business, being a mum to a 4 and half year old ball of energy and a 1 year old demanding beauty. So, I can understand that sometimes she doesn’t care about why written words create less empathy than spoken ones, or how tank warfare impacted the result of World War II, or how Slack was founded. She also doesn’t want to have a conversation every single day about why she does the things that she does, or which tiny habit she should start.
I can be a bit intense, and recognising that gives me a great deal of gratitude for her, and for putting up with it, especially when I direct that intensity at understanding the psychological impact of going to the gym rather than just unstacking the dishwasher.
Self generosity is so important. I think most people can find some energy to be a little bit generous to others, but generosity to ourselves seems to be the hardest thing to do.
There is a troubling dynamic between self-generosity and letting yourself of the hook. It can be a challenge to know if you are being honest with yourself. I still don’t know. Am I being generous to myself (like I would with other people), or am I taking the easy way out?
I’ll be the first to admit that it can take me a little while to understand what is happening ‘within myself’. I will often ask ‘what is the emotion that I am currently feeling’, or, more often, ‘I remember feeling an emotion the other day, what was that?’ I can be slow.
But it’s my emotions that generally stop me from doing something. Like taking on a new challenge, creating an event, or making a phone call. And so, I ask myself how much weight should I give to that emotion? Is this a time to listen to listen to myself and take a break, or is this one of those times that I can push on through? Am I running from a growth opportunity or is saying ‘no’ right now keeping me mentally healthy? Am I over thinking it? Am I underthinking it? Am I asking too many questions?
Maybe you can resonate with that.
The best strategy that I use which helps me manage this process is to sit in the discomfort of whatever the emotion is, name it out loud (works better if you are alone) and articulate what I am afraid of in that moment (fear is always at work).
That is my definition of self-generosity. Noticing what I am experiencing without judgement and sitting with it. From that point I will usually know instinctively what the next step is.
Think of the most generous person you know. If you were to tell me their story, I have no doubt that they have been through some pretty heavy stuff in their life. Yet, somehow, they have made it through all of that and still have a generous mindset.
The reason is that generosity is forged in the fire of adversity.
Not everyone who goes through life challenges emerges as a generous warrior, but the ones that do are very special. Because their generosity is birthed from empathy. They know what it is like to go through difficulties, and they also know how important it is to have people around you who can support you during those times, so they are looking for ways to do that for other people.
As we look across our world we see so many people in need, suffering under the weight of global issues outside of their control. It can be overwhelming because each person has a name, a story, desires for what they want in life, and a potential that is yet to be discovered.
It is empathy that keeps us from becoming overwhelmed and instead, drives us towards generosity. Towards action. Towards seeing each person and seeking to understanding what life is like for them.
Empathy is generosity. Just ask your generous friend.
Do you want to hear a secret?
I can’t even remember the last time I heard someone ask that. Maybe when I was a kid, but as you grow, sharing secrets happens less and less. Not because we no longer have secrets as adults, but we just don’t share them as much.
These hidden truths about ourselves and our past create a hefty burden that we carry, and they disconnect us from the people we do life with. Often they don’t seem appropriate to share with anyone, lest we be judged and rejected, so we keep them to ourselves and pretend they are not there. After a while, life with secrets becomes normal to us as the hefty burden becomes part of us and we get used to the disconnection.
A great way to be generous to yourself, is to share those secrets that you carry, with someone else. Someone you trust, someone who loves you.
James, a great spiritual leader and a brother to Jesus, encouraged his followers to confess their sins, or the secrets that they carried, to each other to remove the disconnection they caused and restore relationships. Such is the power of sharing a secret. It brings healing.
It’s a gift to you. It gets rid of the burden and brings the people you love closer.
“Blessed is the man who expects nothing for he shall never be disappointed.”
Alexander Pope, the 18th century poet is credited as saying this. And it’s true. You will never be disappointed by anyone if you have no expectations. It’s also a very sad way to live. Because often we get what we expect to get. So when we expect nothing from someone we get exactly that.
If we expect the worst from people, it is surprising (or maybe not as surprising) how often we receive the worst from people.
Is the guarantee of never being disappointed worth missing out on getting the best from someone? If you expect great things from a person, you will be let down at some stage, but you will also see great things from them.
Take how we think about big business for example. The general population now expects big, faceless companies to do the wrong thing. To monopolise the market, tear down the little guy, and rip people off so they can pay their shareholders more in profits. When that happens, it is just business as usual. We expect it.
But what about the hundreds of businesses that have signed up to become a B Corp – a company that balances purpose and profit for the good of our world? What if our expectations shifted and we began to expect businesses to focus on sustainability and community? Some would disappoint us, yes, but it would be worth it to see those that would live up to, or even exceed our expectations.
Expect great things and you will be disappointed sometimes, but it’s a small price to pay to see the great things that people are capable of.
I am anti-bully. I’m against them. I think we should treat everyone we come across with kindness and generosity.
Except, sometimes I don’t live up to that. Just ask my kids.
For the most part though, kindness and generosity drives me.
There are those who still seem to bully others no matter what time of day, how much sleep they got last night or how strong their coffee is. Why is that? What do people still behave like this?
It’s a learned behaviour. They got it from somewhere when they were younger. Somebody taught them to behave like this, either intentionally or by example.
No one called them out. No one told them “this is not okay”, and follow that up with, “you aren’t able to be my friend/stay at this school/work at this company/lead this organisation/represent this entity and still behave like that.”
It works for them. They get want they want this way. It has worked for them their entire life, so why should they change now?
They are afraid. Trampling on other people does not come from a good place. It comes from someone who is deeply afraid of rejection and being hurt.
We know that they are there. We see them in our schools, workplaces and in the community. What do we do with them?
Firstly, there are consequences for behaviour. Legal, relational and social. Bullies must face those consequences.
But the most dangerous thing that we can do to bullies is to beat them down into submission. We can’t just bully the bullies and then celebrate the win because instead of creating one less bully in the world, we have created one more. Violence leads to more violence. And bullying perpetuates more bullying.
A violent take over of a country is always followed by a violent take over of the country. Unless someone intentionally fosters peace in amongst the violence. It’s the same for how we relate to people within our community.
The most generous thing we can do is to intentionally foster peace. Leave room for consequences, and see them, not as a stick to punish, but as a helping hand to heal. To overcome bullying, we must protect the vulnerable and heal the bullies.