2023 Theme – With Intent

Usually ‘with intent’ has a negative connotation. For example, ‘with intent to distribute’…(or any of the below…)

It means that there is a purpose behind specific actions that someone takes, and that individual is aware that their actions will most likely cause a certain outcome, making them responsible for that outcome.

What it brings to mind for me is how my 6-year-old son behaves in a way that shows intent to annoy his 3 year old sister. I will often share my disappointment when he upsets her on purpose just to get her to react.

But it works both ways, because intent can be positive, and that is my hope for 2023. To be intentional with my actions – the more specific the better, in areas where my life isn’t going how I would like.

What makes intent positive or negative are the words that come after ‘with intent’. ‘With intent’, to what?  

So, my theme for 2023 is to live ‘with intent’. Intent to:

  • Be generous with specific amounts, organisations and people
  • Learn specific things
  • Improve specific parts of my finances
  • Spend time doing specific things which strengthen my body and mind
  • Spend time with specific people (and to find some more of these specific people)

(I do have these specific things, organisations and people articulated, in case you were wondering. This is just an overview.)

2023 is going to be my year of intent, to live knowing that my actions will most likely cause a certain outcome and that I am responsible for that outcome.

Where could you use some positive intent?

Two Generosity Tips for Christmas

I’ve been trying to get things tidy before Christmas comes, to get everything sorted before the end of the year.

Isn’t that often the experience that many of us have at this time of year, during the build up towards Christmas?

Too many things to do, not enough time.

So here are my two generosity tips to help you survive at this time of year:

Firstly, go easy on yourself, be generous to yourself.

“Perfect is the enemy of good”, we know that saying but I also think perfect is the enemy of joy.

Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect, the build-up doesn’t have to be perfect.

Find time to spend quality time with your friends and with your family and find time for joy. Perfect doesn’t necessarily always fit with Christmas.

Secondly, let people give you stuff. If they want to, let people give you presents.

We find joy when we give so maybe try not to avoid it, allow it to happen and let people express their generosity and gratitude towards you.

It’s a gift to them.

So go easy on yourself, be generous to yourself and let people give you presents, be generous to them at the same time.

And so from everyone at the Generosity Guy, which is me…

Merry Christmas!

What I missed out on from not being on Facebook in 2022…

On December 31 2021, I deactivated my Facebook account. I was struck by the fact that it wasn’t adding anything of value to my life. So I decided to quit it. Here’s what I missed out on from not being on Facebook this year…

  • Not as many people contacted me on my birthday. (I probably missed your birthday too. Sorry about that).
  • 20% less people viewed my blog.

That’s it.

What I gained:

  • More time being present with family (still not great at that).
  • More headspace to think creatively.
  • A sense of moral superiority when I hear people talking about Facebook. (Not proud of that one).
  • More time to work.
  • A greater sense of peace and less angst.
  • Zero pointless notifications.
  • Less craziness and outrage.
  • Zero conspiracy theories.

That’s a win.

Now, what to do with Instagram?

Top 5 Books from 2022

Of the books that I have read this year, here are my top 5 recommendations…(and then a list of some of the others in case you are curious.)

Personality Isn’t Permanent – Dr. Benjamin Hardy

I feel like I finally have an answer as to why I hate personality profiles based on a questionnaire. Besides the fact that all the information used for the profile is subjective (and provided by me about me – a topic that I really don’t fully understand) and the questions are way too simplistic, this book unpacks, from a psychological perspective, why personality types can be really harmful.

Your personality isn’t fixed. You are a number of different people throughout your life, unless you choose not to grow and allow yourself to be boxed in by your type/number/animal/acronym.

Read this book.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R Covey

Okay, I get it. I’m 30 years late on this one. I thought it was going to be a positive thinking book about getting up early and winning the day – like I need to hear more of that, so I have avoided it. I was so wrong. A few pages in I discovered that Stephen Covey was decades ahead of his time as he warned against the dangers of attempting to positive think your way into success and how manipulating those around you to do what you want with special techniques is not effective nor success. Many of the things that I have learned over the last 5 years that have been life changing can be found in the pages of this book. Most authors that I have credited with genius ideas have Stephen Covey to thank for giving them the inspiration to write them.

I had heard some of the habits mentioned before and on face value, again incorrectly, thought they were pointless. Instead, they hold a real depth and he takes you through the process of discovering what your values truly are, living them out through an empowered thought life creating an intentional future and building others up around you. If you have never read this book, read it…now.

Humankind – A Hopeful History – Rutger Bregman

Surely Rutger is one of the most hopeful people on the planet. His perspective and real understanding of some of the historical events reshapes the way that I see people – we are more often than not, generous, supportive and caring for others. Kids on an island is a fiction and also not true. The real story didn’t catch people’s attention because people treating others nicely rarely does.

Tribe of Mentors – Tim Ferris

Tim emails famous people that are pretty amazing in their field of expertise, a list of questions or which they can choose to answer a few or all if they wish. This book is the accumulation of their answers. Wisdom from actors, sports stars, tech billionaires, artists, authors and a whole lot more. Some of them weren’t for me but there was plenty of other brilliance.

Fiction of the year

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

A beautifully written story about an aristocrat in Russia through parts of the 20th century, being held under house/hotel arrest for being an aristocrat. Some would say it explores the themes of the inevitability of change and government and power. I say it is a touching story, with the tiniest hint of The Count of Monte Cristo.

Others:

Michael Connelly – Bosch Series (Because I have read all the Jack Reacher books)

  • Black Echo
  • The Black Ice
  • Concrete Blonde
  • The Last Coyote
  • Trunk Music

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid – C.K. Prahalad

The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday (for the third time)

Deep Work – Cal Newport (for the second time)

Achievement Addiction – Justine Toh

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

Phosphoresence – Julia Baird

How to give Christmas presents when you suck at giving Christmas presents

When you don’t have any idea what to give someone at Christmas it is terrifying, and when that person is your significant other and your relationship depends on how well you perform, then it is life or death.

Many of these are actual mistakes I have made in the past. As the Generosity Guy, it is my job to help you learn from my mistakes. I’m still not great, but I am getting better.

Here are some do’s and don’ts:

Don’t

  • Don’t give cash, unless they want cash and say, “I only want cash”. Even then it could be a trap, so at least wrap the cash up in a pretty bow.
  • Don’t spend all the money you have on their present. Christmas is important but so is paying rent the week after Christmas
  • Don’t go into debt to pay for an outrageous gift. See the previous point about paying future rent.
  • Don’t buy them a gym membership. Even if they say, “I would really like a gym membership”, this is also a trap and will come back to bite you.
  • Don’t buy a dolphin picture. They are never received as well as you would think and just create tension.
  • Don’t buy just one thing. If you are super uncertain about what to get someone, just buying one thing is a pretty big risk. Hedge your bets, buy a few smaller items which gives you more of a chance of getting something right. You can always return the things they don’t like and give them the cash from that (in a pretty bow).
  • Don’t write them a song, unless you are a professional song writer. Even then I’m not sure how well it would go down. Most of the good ones have been written already anyway. Probably don’t sing them a song that someone else has written, that lacks originality.
  • Don’t ask your ex what to give your current partner. That’s just messed up.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Remember, it’s the thought that counts and the fact that you are trying your best is a great start.

Do

  • Do ask the person you are buying for to give some ideas or suggestions. If you need to be subtle about finding out, ask “for a friend”, that always works (about 60% of the time).
  • Do get clarity about gift expectations. There’s nothing like the anxiety on Christmas morning when you realise that the agreement not to buy each other a present was one that you made up in your head.
  • Do ask their family members what they think (but beware of the family member who doesn’t like you and pretends to help but is secretly throwing you under the bus by suggesting that you buy them something that will bring back traumatic memories of a childhood experience, promptly ending your relationship).
  • Do try and think of things that you have done together over the last year that they seemed to enjoy. Things like events you went to (sporting, or music, or other things that people do) and buy tickets to that again. You will soon find out whether they really enjoyed it when you went together or whether they were just pretending to make you feel better. Either way you get to go again so win-win.
  • Do take them to their favourite store for a shopping spree to a set amount. Sure, it’s the same as cash or a gift voucher but it feels a bit more personal when you take them.
  • Do buy them a book. People should read more.
  • Do buy them music. People should listen to more music.
  • Do buy them an Opportunity International Australia Gift of Opportunity – that is guaranteed to make them feel good, because, really, who needs more stuff?

Any other tips are warmly welcomed.

Lack of Purpose is a First World Problem

50 years ago there was no such thing as finding your purpose. You found a job, you worked at that job and you provided for your family. If you were lucky enough you would stay at the company your entire career until you retired.

Now, every second person is having an existential crisis, asking themselves the question, ‘Is this what I really want to be doing?’ (I’m allowed to say this, I have been one of these people.)  

Lack of purpose is a first world problem. How lucky we are to have this issue. For millions, maybe billions, of people today, they don’t get to have that thought because their main priority is survival.

Still, I wish we could all have that existential crisis because it would allow us all to truly find something in life that truly connects us with our purpose. Although we are thinking about it all wrong. The questions I hear people asking are, ‘What do I want to do?’, or ‘What can I achieve?’, or ‘How do I find my particular thing?’.

What we really should be asking is ‘How can I help other people?’, or ‘Where can I serve today?’, or ‘What can I do that will bring the most value to others?’.

That will help you find your purpose, because your purpose is about other people.

Or, as Pablo Picasso puts it,

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

You are an extra

You are an extra in someone else’s movie

Sure, you are the main character in yours but for the majority of the world, you don’t even have a name or a plot line. Maybe you are ‘guy/girl who walks across the screen’, but that’s about it.

It’s important to keep that in mind because it can be so easy to get caught up in our own narrative and think that my story or experience is the only one that matters, and everyone else is playing a supporting role for my benefit. Which is a dangerous place to operate from because getting so wrapped up in ‘me’ and ‘my world’ pushes everyone else and their needs the periphery.

“Why should that matter?” I hear you ask…well, it’s simple. If everyone in the world was all about ‘want’ and ‘take’, we would consume everyone and everything in our paths. But people have value, and how we treat those around us creates the culture for the world we live in. Also, selfishness is not good for us. That goes for individuals, teams, companies, countries and the world.

What is good for us is generosity. Giving to other people, be that time, energy, love, money – whatever you have to offer, will benefit them but also you. Giving is good for you.

So, you are an extra in someone else’s movie. You are not the centre of the universe. It might sound depressing but the good news is that you can be the best extra in someone else’s movie today. Just by being kind, friendly and smiling at someone else, you can create an amazing scene which will impact how the rest of their story plays out.

First: Action

It is perhaps the most challenging part of being an adult – realising that most good things in life come after action. Be that motivation, inspiration, momentum, direction, creative juices, freshly baked cookies…you name it.

On the flipside, there are very few desirable things that come from inaction.

It’s the same for the feeling of fulfilment and joy that come after a generous act. We know that the brain and the body respond in positive ways when we are generous to others. We like the feeling of our brain and body responding like that. But we don’t always do the thing that brings about that feeling.

It first requires action. It needs proactive behaviour that chooses to be generous first, then experience the good things follow.

To find the good things in life, you must act first. To find that good feeling and the positive outcomes of generosity, you first must be generous. The beauty is that it can start with your thoughts. You can even think generously about someone and start to receive some of the benefits. But don’t leave it there. It’s not a real act until you act it out.

Giving is better

Giving is better than receiving. It’s a cliché for a reason – it is so widely used because it is true. Which is amazing because I love receiving. How good is it to get a thoughtful gift? Receiving something new creates an amazing physiological response in our body, excitement, joy and happiness. It changes our mood.

Giving away a thoughtful gift also has an amazing physiological response in our body. It creates joy and a sense of fulfilment at the sight of someone we care about getting excited, feeling joy and being happy. The difference is that the feeling you get when you give something thoughtful to someone else, lasts longer than their feelings of excitement, joy and happiness at receiving the gift.

It’s feels counterintuitive but a new toy loses its shine super quick (be that an actual toy or a new iPhone), but the feeling of joy the giver has, lasts a lot longer. There is a great sense of fulfilment that comes when you realise that you are the type of person who is generous.

“I act generously” – is a great statement to say about yourself.

It’s sounds much better than “I love getting gifts from people”.

Giving is better than receiving.

Thank You

“Did you know that you have impacted 44,000 people since you first started giving nearly 20 years ago?”

You could see the tears well up in their eyes as the enormity of their true impact started to sink in. They were a humble couple, faithfully giving what they could to the work of Opportunity International Australia. Some years they would give large amounts, other years smaller amounts, but they were always thinking about being generous with what they had been given. You would walk by them in the street and have no idea that these people had changed the lives of so many.

Through their giving, they had provided small loans to thousands of families across Asia so that they could start a business, create an income, put food on the table, send their kids to school and pay the loan back. Through the process of repayment and recycling their impact grew and grew – like an investment in the improvement of our world, it will continue.

Today, my job was to share with them the true depth of the difference they have made and to say “Thank you”. I love my job.