It Shows the World We Want to Lead…or not

“Show me you calendar and your bank statement and I will show you your priorities.”

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become” James Clear

“How you do anything is how you do everything” James Bryant

You can tell quite a bit about a person by where they spend their time and where they spend their money. It shows you what they care about the most, even more so that what they say their priorities are. Words are easy but behaviour tells the full story and what we say our priorities are may not line up with reality.

It works on a national level as well. Australia sees itself as a global leader in all things promoting democracy and development. We want the world, especially the Asian region, to do well and for everyone to live safe and health lives…or so we say.

Our finances tell a different story. The past decade has seen an embarrassing decrease in the amount of assistance given to our neighbouring countries, so much so, that we are currently investing the lowest amount money to foreign aid in the history of foreign aid. We promised to get to place where we gave 0.5% of our budget to foreign aid. That’s 50c in every $100 earned. But we are currently giving 0.21%, or 21c in every $100 and it is unlikely to change.

It’s embarrassing, because we are being exposed for who we actually are on a global scale. The real leaders in the world are showing us up in their generosity. Sweden gives 1.1% of their Gross National Income, the UK gives 0.7%, Netherlands are at 0.65% and Germany are giving 0.41%.

We say we care about these things, but we don’t. We aren’t leading, in fact we are hiding. We are avoiding the difficulty of poverty in our region (our own back yard, so to speak) and hoping it goes away. History shows us that never works.

We must face it, lead the world in development and generosity and see positive change come as a result.

Foreign Aid Makes Australia Safe

The Australian Federal Government says that helping our neighbouring countries transition people out of poverty “will be important for Australia’s economy and security.”

Giving money for the purpose of aid, development and education is not just a nice thing to do, it’s not just about creating more customers who are able to buy more of our exports, but it makes the world a safer place.

We know that when there is a higher proportion of people living in poverty in developing countries, who have little to no opportunities to improve their lives, the region will become unstable, and young people will become “prone to radicalisation, and susceptible to the influence of countries and ideas at odds with Australia’s interests”.

So we must act, because if we don’t “create opportunities for people to lift themselves out of grinding poverty, instability will grow and people will continue to seek refuge from violence and economic hardship on our shores.”

It sounds blunt, and it’s not the only reason why Foreign Aid is important, but if we want to stop the rise of radicalisation, violence and refugees seeking asylum, giving aid to the countries around us will do that. In fact, we should be giving more.

Foreign Aid is Good for our Farmers

There are parts of our community that continues to ask the following question:

Why are we giving away $4b in aid when our farmers are struggling?

At first glance it casts Australia’s Foreign Aid budget in a questionable light. But it is horribly short sighted.

Australia exports over $430 billion worth of goods to the rest of the world, and much of it goes to Asia. The majority of wheat grown in Australia is sold overseas, with the major markets in Asia and the Middle East. Annually, it brings in about $2.4b.

Imagine if every country in Asia had worked their way out of poverty and had the capacity to purchase more? Countries such as Thailand and South Korea were once aid recipients and are now among Australia’s 10 largest trade partners.

In short, there is a very good reason to look after your customers. Treat them well and they will become repeat customers. If you provide a way for them to improve their lives so they can buy more wheat and meat products from Australian farmers then that just makes good economic sense.  That’s it.

We Must Look After Our Own First

“Surely charity begins at home and surely we must look after our own first.”

“We must take care of our own country before we could even consider taking care of somebody else.”

In an attempt to be part of the active conversation around foreign aid and its complexity, here are a few thoughts as to why the above comments, which seem accurate, are wrong. There are so many reasons why we need to reconsider how we look at the issue of foreign aid.

Firstly, and not for nothing, but ‘charity begins at home’ actually comes from the concept that charity gets taught to kids first in their home, that’s where we learn about helping others. It’s not a statement about how our care and concern for other humans must be, first and foremost, on the people that happen to live within the same arbitrary borders as us, and anyone who doesn’t fit into that just has to wait in line.

Secondly, the more money that we put in the places that are so close to us, that would just about be considered Australia, the better off we are. Take Indonesia, for example, the more money that we can put towards their education system, creating a better educated society, increased economic growth and a more stable region. We know that Indonesia will become the 4th biggest economy in the world over the next 20 years, so it makes economic sense to help end poverty there. Surely we can all agree that increased economic growth and stability in Indonesia and the Asian region as a whole is a good thing?

As the Australian Government says:

“Helping poor people out of poverty in areas of strategic importance for Australia is also good for our own peace and stability. Of Australia’s 24 nearest neighbours, 22 are developing countries with some of them particularly fragile and vulnerable.”

Next: Instead of bemoaning about how we are ripping our farmers off, let’s look at why Foreign Aid is good for our farmers.

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 is 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.