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.

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.

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.

Heaping Coals

I grew up in a home of Christian faith, and I distinctly remember a part of the teaching about how to treat people who are against you, being your enemy. It said,

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

I remember reading as an adult too, and, you’ve got to admit, that is a pretty weird statement. The image that this created in my mind was that of an antagonist and that God was actually suggesting to people who have enemies, ‘treat them nicely so that they get really angry and fume, that will be pretty funny’. I could never work that out.

I recently discovered that there was an Egyptian custom in which a person who had made an error and was wanting to make an amends, would carry a pan of coals on their head as a sign of their remorse, and the above teaching is likely to be in reference to that practice.

That changed some things for me. It turned an antagonistic philosophy and transformed it into a message of returning good for evil in the hope that someone who was actively out to harm you would be in a restored relationship with you. Now, I don’t know that repentance and restoration is a guaranteed outcome of giving food and drink to someone who hates you. There is always a risk in any act of generosity, especially one as this counter-intuitive (eye for eye, remember? That’s a whole other conversation…). But the possibility that you could bring something amazing out of something awful is worth it. Even if it only means that you don’t have to live with an active resentment towards the person, because the act of generosity towards them can shift your perspective.

Death & Taxes

I don’t hear it much anymore, but it was colloquial for a long time – the only two certainties in life, being death and taxes. Both of which we still try to avoid.

We try to avoid one by hiring great accountants and we try to avoid the other by not talking about it…

The internet tells me that I am not alone when it comes to talking about death. It can be quite the scary and uncomfortable topic, and somewhat strange to discuss whilst we are still healthy.

There are numerous benefits to openly talking about a time when we will no longer be around, including gaining a greater perspective of life, what we value, what we have achieved and what we still wish to accomplish. It is such an important conversation as we will all die, although we can’t control how or when, we can control what impact we can have after we have died.

One of the greatest impacts we can have post-death, is to leave something to a charitable organisation in our will; a bequest. We are on the verge of the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in our history, so it makes sense to allocate some of that to the causes and charities that mean something to us.

It is very easy to do – as you arrange your affairs, mention to your lawyer that you would like to leave a certain amount or a certain percentage to a charity and they will take care of the rest. If you already have a will, you don’t have to re-do the whole thing, you can add a codicil which serves an amendment to your will, recording your wishes to leave a gift from your estate. Again, chat to your lawyer and they will help you out – also your favourite charity may have a copy of the codicil to get you on your way.

A bequest is a simple way to be generous when the terrible happens.

How To be Generous to Yourself (without letting yourself off the hook)

I love personal growth. I love consuming books, podcasts and videos about growth. I find it exhilarating. But I realised a little while ago, I must be exhausting to live with. I am always searching for the reasons why I do the things I do, how I can do life better, and how I can find the blind-spots that I have. Nobody wants to live with that, and to be honest, sometimes I am exhausted by it too. So I am slowly learning about what being generous to yourself means. I have been reluctant because previously I have been very good at letting myself off the hook for something and calling it ‘self-generosity’, but it was really just laziness and a lack of integrity.

Now, I have three sayings that I use which help keep things in check.

We are all a work in progress

This is helpful for me and for when I am dealing with others. Sometimes I can get frustrated with people who don’t seem to be trying to improve and this saying is a great reminder that I don’t know other people’s journey, and I certainly don’t know where they will end up. It helps keep me in check too, as I realise that I am a long way from where I want to be.

I am better than I was yesterday (but not as good as a I will be tomorrow)

To stop me slipping into the depths of despair and frustration when I make the same mistakes or fall into the same victim racket in my mind, I think of how far I have come and I can have confidence in my trajectory of growth. If I can keep doing to small things each day; reading, learning, keeping fit, then I know I am moving forward. Progress is slow, but it is still progress.

In this moment, I am enough

With all that said and done, I can know that right here, right now, I am everything that I need to be for this moment. I can’t do anything about any work or preparation that hasn’t been done because it is too late to change it, so I can own who I am and what I am doing.

What are your best sayings?

This is Why We Need Generosity

We need generosity.

In a world with increased connections but decreased relationships, now more than ever, we need it. Because it is generosity that breaks down the barriers that we put up, even the subconscious ones, to bring about quality relationships and positive change.

We need it because it is good for us. I talk often about the health benefits, physically, emotionally and psychologically, that generosity has. It is so good for us.

We need it because kids in the developed world are growing up in an unprecedented time of wealth. In Australia, over the next 10 or so years, we will see the largest transfer of wealth from one generation to another as the older generation dies. Never before have we had so much wealth. One of the problems this creates is that children are growing up experiencing large houses, latest technology, private schools, frequent holidays and access to anything they want, thinking that is normal. But the majority of the world does not live like this.

We need it because we are becoming more divided than ever. Taking sides is the new black. We seem to lack the ability to try to understand those we disagree with and just write them off as a ‘nut-job’.

Generosity makes us healthier. Generosity takes our focus off ourselves and shifts it on to others, allowing us to notice that people live in poverty all over the world and we can do something about it. Generosity brings us together through one of the kindest acts of seeking to understand the people we don’t agree with and realising we have much more in common that we think.

We need generosity.

The Worst Thing We Ever Built

The greatest thing that I made with own two hands (apart from my children, but I was really a bystander in all of that) was a table that I built in Woodwork when I was 15. It wasn’t a masterpiece and I think I accidentally stole part of it from another student, but it was mine (mostly) and it maintained its structural integrity when I put something on it. It was amazing, because I made it.

We often feel that way about something that we create, but sometimes what we create isn’t amazing, and can even cause significant damage to people. That’s a little difficult to talk about though.

One of the man-made creations which has torn our world apart is poverty. We have created it, and we maintain it, and it holds hundreds of millions of people captive every single day, taking the lives of millions each year. The ‘we’ that I refer to are the wealthy in our world. If you are reading this, then that is you.

You see, poverty has not been created by people living in poverty – Muhammad Yunos would say that poverty was created‘…by an economic system in which all the resources tend to keep surging up towards the top, creating and ever expanding mushroom head of wealth belonging to only 1 percent of people.’ An economic system created and cultivated by those whom it serves. Those with wealth. You and me.

It is not a natural disaster, it does not happen at random and it is not a necessary evil. It is a vile beast that we created, and we must kill. Because it is holding us as a human race back, and we are missing out on the beauty, creativity and intelligence of the majority of people who live on the planet.

Ending poverty is a lofty goal – but we are doing it, one small loan at a time.