I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of generosity. I don’t have a favorite color (unless black counts, which I’ve been told by people who choose colors like ‘chartreuse green’ or ‘mauve’ that it definitely does not), but I do think I have a favorite word.
To me, empathy is the missing ingredient in almost every argument, bad policy, or war. If people had the ability to see the other person’s viewpoint, at the very least they’d be sympathetic to their cause. But too many times, people are solely focused on their problems and their vision of the world.
I like to believe I’ve always been an empathetic person, but after going through Leadership Atlanta I realized just how singular I had been in my views. And that experience is what led me to find my personal purpose.
Without empathy, I don’t think you can truly be generous.
I was reminded of this when I recently finished an audiobook that will go down as one of my favorites. I know I said the same thing with Will Smith’s autobiography, and I still rank that book the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to, but The Master Plan by Chris Wilson is unreal (hat tip to Kat Cole for the recommendation). An amazingly inspirational story (he reads the audio version), and without spoiling too much I’ll just say that he enters prison at age 17 on a life sentence and shortly after decides to commit his life to being generous, and…well, you’ll have to read (or hopefully listen to) the rest.
Over-indexing on generosity
I have to start by saying that I learned about the power of being generous from my mother. She showed me at a young age that being generous is a way of life. If anyone ever needed help, she was there. And she’s continued to be that person, even more so I think, now that she’s a grandmother.
I find that I never feel better than after I’ve been generous to someone else. Whether it’s sharing advice to an entrepreneur, lending a hand to a friend, or going out of my way to help a nonprofit overcome a problem they’re dealing with, I always feel energized afterward.
And this applies to both my personal and professional life.
At work, I try to over-index on generosity: making time for people who want advice or a meeting, giving away as many insights and lessons as possible in public talks (rather than holding them back), and sharing what we’re learning from our customers with the whole company.
I find that it has been very beneficial to my career development to be as generous as I can. But the important thing is that I’m not doing it for that reason. I’m doing it because it’s what I wish everyone would do.
In my personal life, I’ve been trying to be more generous with people who need my time:
- friends and family
- community leaders
- local organizations that are doing good in the world
Even writing this post is an attempt for me to be generous by sharing things that might be helpful in your life.
(Actually, one of the things that always kicks me out of slacking on writing this newsletter is when someone sends me a note about how a previous post positively affected them. That always gets me back on track.)
I think we can all agree that the world could use more generosity. So let’s over-index on it. Let’s be so generous that it becomes our defining quality as individuals. Let’s do good not because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the right thing.
I promise, if you do that, you’ll be happier and healthier than you ever thought possible.
I hope you’re happy,