Five months ago, I got kicked out of my Nona’s house. New to the city and now homeless, I didn’t have a clue of where to go next. At the time I was stressed, anxious, and pissed off at my grandparents. But looking back, I’d never change the tough love I experienced. The entire situation forced me to look critically at myself. A couple nights of huddling in the freezing cold, in the backseat of my 2000 Jetta, really helped me see my shortcomings!
In those moments, I realized that I had always been on the receiving end of my relationships. I defaulted into being a taker, asking for more than I’d given. I lived with my Nona for 6 months, rarely, if ever, contributing. I was focused on writing, reading, speaking, and volunteering outside of our home. And it was through this experience I learned that the taker never wins long term. It’s the honest giver who earns your trust, confidence and admiration. Givers earn your respect. It is they who are valued and who embody the champion. It became clear to me that if I was going to become a champion, I needed to develop a giving mentality.
Fortunately, there have been more champions in my life today than ever before! When I was at Venture for Canada training camp in May, I observed individual after individual that demonstrated this invaluable trait. The more champions I met, the more generosity, selflessness, and giving continued to show up as a theme in their character. One fellow in particular caught my attention. They went out of their way to compliment others, to share all of their best strategies and tools, and to made sure to contribute to the positive experience of every single fellow.
During the morning session of my third day, she sat in front of forty people, completely vulnerable, and shared her mind map. The map consisted of all her goals, ambitions, and plans for the year ahead. Meant for her eyes only, she shared the essence of who she was with a group she had met only a couple of days ago. As the map was passed around, eventually landing on my lap, I read one of the most profound mission statements I’d ever seen. It wrote,
“My purpose lies in living a life that creates social good, both personally and professionally. I will live a life that embodies generosity, kindness, strength and compassion. I prioritize balance and well-being. I will make time to discover the world. And I will seize every opportunity to learn and I will be present for those I love and who love me.”
I immediately knew she was the model I sought out. She was the missing link that could open me up to a world of giving and social good. Her name, is Lucia.
Lucia has been by far one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. As her mission statement suggests, Lucia is engrossed in multiple ventures to help leave a positive impact in this world. One, accessible to support by the public, is an initiative to build libraries in needy schools and communities throughout her home country, Honduras. This year she is hoping to launch two more ventures, one to promote gender parity in STREAM fields through play, and one to champion innovation in emerging markets. On top of that, she wakes up between 4:30 and 5am everyday, is Trilingual, and is working on her first belt in Krav Maga (I wouldn’t mess with her if I was you). During the day, she works full-time as the Marketing Coordinator for the National Angel Capital Organization.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the more I get to know her, the more I realize that she embodies all eight of the qualities making up the profile of a champion. And because of that she’s paved a path for what it means to be a giver. If we model that path, we too can live a life of abundance and fulfillment.
Now, before you can live that life, it’s important to know what to avoid. Let me help you with that.
Both Lucia and Adam Grant, Author of “Give and Take“, would characterize the behaviour while living at my Nona’s as that of a taker. The taker views interactions as a way of extracting value from other people. They approach people with the mindset of, “How can get as much as possible from this exchange?” They tend to believe that by taking, it’s the shortest and most direct path to achieving their own goals.
Admittedly, and unfortunately, that was true for me. I was too frugal to contribute in rent. And even if I couldn’t afford to pitch in with money, I didn’t try to help out in other ways. I took advantage of the food in the house instead of helping out with the groceries or cooking for my grandparents. I didn’t care for the house or try to help maintain it. I didn’t clean up after myself enough. I didn’t even contribute to the laundry…
Looking back, I recognize my selfishness. I’m surprised they didn’t kick me out sooner! And I’m lucky that’s all that happened. If you’re a taker, more often than not, you’ll burn bridges in your relationships and start to be known as someone who is selfish, narcissistic, and cancerous to teams. So let me be clear, the taker never wins long term. They may get lucky and avoid being noticed at first, but in the long run, they will be exposed and lose.
While most people will never be exclusively givers or takers, the champion is, by and large, a giver. So if you recognize yourself in the description of the taker and want to work towards becoming a champion as I do, it’s time to audit your behaviour and at least be a matcher.
If you’re thinking I’m being pretty hard on myself, I am. It’s by being critical of my behaviour that I’ve been able to transition to being at least a matcher. In most of our interactions, our instinct is to maintain and even balance of give-and take in life. We try to keep fairness and a sense of quid pro quo in our dealings with others. If we do someone a favour, we virtually always expect an equal one in return.
This is where I see myself today. As a salesman, one of my favourite books is Robert Cialdini’s, “Influence“. In that book, the first rule of influence is reciprocity. Robert shares that in society, we’ve grown up in a culture where I’m obligated to give back to you the same form of behaviour that you give to me. For example, if you invite me to one of your parties, I should invite you to one of mine. If you remember my birthday with a gift, I should bring one to yours. And if you do me a favour, I owe you a favour.
I loved that concept! It’s better than a taker right? Well, it turns out, only slightly. After diving into purpose, giving, and what it means to be generous with Lucia, I found out the huge difference intention makes in the giving process. When writing Ryan Cobb‘s post on doing more than expected, Lucia was literally the first one to message me privately and give me feedback for where I stumbled in his write up.
Much like Lucia, Ryan isn’t a matcher, he’s a giver. He doesn’t approach situations knowing that by doing and giving more than expected, he’ll in turn, get more because of reciprocity. No. Both Ryan and Lucia’s intentions when giving, are to give. End of story. It’s not about economics, it’s not about reciprocation, it’s about doing the right thing and how it makes them feel to be a giver. Lucia shared that,
“As soon as you start adding, ‘what am I getting out of this?’ your giving becomes disingenuous. You need to be willing to put others before yourself. The whole point of being a generous human being is that it comes from a place of helping others. Selflessness is key.”
Matchers, as Lucia pointed out, aren’t being generous. Further, in my experience with matching, I’ve even been seen as manipulative or that I was only doing a favour because I expected one in return. I don’t want to come from that place anymore. Do you? As a matcher, I do understand that I’m making better decisions than when I was a taker. But, I know I have the capacity to do better. Generosity is about intentions. I want to challenge you, as I have myself, that if your intentions are to take, or to give solely because we expect reciprocity, it’s time to start modelling a giver, immediately.
Every week on my Facebook wall I can expect to see this post by Lucia. Selflessly, she opens up her time, energy, and resources, to contribute to lives of her community in one way or another. Just as Adam Grant describes, the champion comes into an interaction trying to figure out, “What can I contribute here? How Can I add value here?” The champion is looking for ways to be helpful, without strings attached.
Now that it’s clear what the giver looks like, there’s only one final question to ask: why is the champion a giver, rather than a matcher or taker?
As discussed, the taker will lose long term. Wether that is due to poor relationships or reputation, they aren’t able to build enough trust to open them up for opportunity in the future.
The matcher, although better, can still be perceived as having dishonourable intentions. On top of that, you will always have to give a matcher more if you want to receive more. Not only does this have diminishing returns, the matcher is less likely to take on a leadership role in tough times. When the situation has less to give, so does the matcher.
The giver however, should be our default mode. Have you ever wondered how you could feel more passion and zest for life? The answer is help other people. I’m a huge Tony Robbins fan. He’s famous for saying that one, of the only two paths to fulfillment, is through contribution.
The givers and the champions in your life find more meaning and purpose in their work and experience because they’re contributing. They know that what they do daily, truly makes a difference. They make it clear that their colleagues, friends, and family are really important to them, and as a result, they end up building many and deep relationships with people who often become sources of creative ideas and open doors to new opportunities.
According to Lucia, givers can look forward to more opportunities, responsibility, and respect. Over time, the more she gives, the more her professional results are dramatically amplified. Her coworkers and friends recognize this character trait, and know that if given a task or added responsibility, she will be generous with the effort she puts in. That is what builds her reputation. The possibilities for someone who is a problem solver, resourceful, and giving are endless.
She warns however that as much as it’s important to come from a place of selflessness, it’s equally important to be generous with one’s self. Avoid becoming a doormat. Lucia stressed to me that being a giver is not always easy. It’s easy to take a beating because some people will take advantage of you. So remember, just like on an airplane, we need to put our own oxygen mask on first, to make sure we can support and give to those around us. In the end, the quality and quantity of what we give is improved when it’s coming from a happier, balanced, and nurtured place.
I don’t know about you, but I want endless possibilities. I want more respect, trust, and deeper relationships in my life. I want to be a giver. Fortunately for me, and for anyone on the path to becoming a champion, we have examples like Lucia, Ryan, and others we can turn to and model.
- Learn from Lucia- Lucia’s Facebook post is only one of many examples of how she gives. One of the most humble people I know, Lucia described all of her initiatives to give as simply part of her values and purpose. She want’s to show others that there is more than one way to give. Today, she’s engaged in two socially conscious businesses. Volunteers with many charitable organizations and with her local MP. She contributes to building homes and even though she’s always wanted a tattoo, she’s never gone through with it because it would interrupt her blood donation schedule! The key is that Lucia is intentional with her giving. She regularly schedules time out of her busy life (trust me, I thought I was busy) to make a contribution. I personally plan on spending more time volunteering, how about you?
- Focus on the little things- If you can’t do that she said, simply focus on the small things you can do every single day. Where can you be more generous at work? With your family? With your friends? Can you hold doors? Share an insight of something you recently learned? Make an introduction? There are unlimited ways to be generous. Unlike the taker, Lucia says that the giver asks themselves daily, “Am I making the world better, yes or no?” “Am I making this persons life better, yes or no?” If you can’t go big, start small. You’ll feel so good, that small wins will grow into big ones over time!
- Start Now– Let’s go on this journey of giving together. Lucia has been generous even to provide her email for anyone that has further questions about generosity or her story (firstname.lastname@example.org). Take her up on the offer because she’s the type of champion you want in your life!
Our families deserve our contribution. Our work deserves our contribution. Our Country deserves our contribution. And most importantly, we deserve the feelings of fulfillment and joy that will inevitably follow us on our path to endless possibilities!
Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight, but you can change your direction”