August 26, 2009

Generosity is a wonder drug

Much of our emotional pain comes from an obsessive focus on lack, where our mind identifies with what we don’t have, what we want others to do for us and what others have.   As we hammer away at our mental shock absorbers with this thinking, we get closer and closer to depression.  When we consider our greatest fears, we often relate them entirely on their impact to our lives and livelihood.   Very seldom do our greatest fears concern outsiders, strangers or even associates and friends.  

Generosity, the act of giving to others in need, reverses our thinking patters from have-not to got-enough.  If generosity achieves a powerful moment of contribution, making a difference, it can snap you out of your poor-me trance.  

Jonathan Schwartz, a Yahoo executive I worked with for several years, demonstrates the healing power of being generous with your time.  In 2002 and 2003, he served as regional vice president of sales for the ad team.  His patch was the west coast, which had been hard by the tech-meltdown. He was getting a few hundred emails a day with a workload that exceeded his waking hours -- counting weekends. His therapy was simple: Give time.  Sounds crazy, but it worked. He signed up for the Yahoo-For-Good project that entailed working with local schools in need to install computers and teach kids how to use the internet to find-connect and research. The impact on his psyche was immediate. When he got back to the office, he scrambled to catch up and started to push back to the info-hogs and worry warts that were gobbling up his precious time. He realized that whenever he felt down and out, without any personal time, he could lift himself out of the doomloop of the day by spending some time at the school project.  He realized there was enough to spare if he'd own his schedule and value his time as a place to make a difference and not just run on the treadmill. 

Time is one thing, precious money is another.  During these times, giving money is harder than ever.  We’d rather give time, old junk or advice.  If money is an obsession to you, though, you’ll have to give it away to achieve the wonder drug results of redirecting your mind to your abundance.  Money is the hardest thing for us, even during good times.  It’s the rocket fuel that we equate with power, luxury and security.  

I have a good friend that just gave away tens of thousands of dollars to help a school in need.   He’s not a billionaire either, just an average millionaire that lost about a third of his value last year.  And it was driving him crazy.  One day, late last fall, he found out about a school in Africa that some friends were raising money for.  The school was funded during the go-go days of 2005 and 2006 and due to the market pullback donors were bailing out left and right. 

The school didn’t have enough cash for much of anything but the buildling, some books and some bargain priced train-the-teachers.  The kids didn’t have computers, qualified teachers or hot lunches.  For a small amount of money, dozens of lives could be changed forever.  He prayed over the opportunity, wrote the check and later took a trip to the school for a ribbon cutting.  The emotional results were surprising:  He felt free.  He felt powerful.  He realized that even at two thirds of his paper-wealth, he was still rich enough to give.  He reports that he's sleeping deeper.  He scrambled around to replace the cash, and fell into a lucrative consulting arrangement that will more than cover for his donation. 

He told me that this one act of painful charity, giving until it scared him, will likely change his life forever – permanently immunizing him against the markets ups and downs.  He realized that when he lost, he was not alone.   He also realized that money is either his master or his weapon-of-good.  By giving it, he owned it.  He’ll never think of his net worth the same again.  

What does this mean to you?   

- Giving is an opportunity.  You need to keep your ears open for it, and respond every time it comes into your life. 

- Giving should be programmed into your life, as an exercise in consistency. 

- Give what you feel you lack if you are depressed.  Give what you feel you have a surplus in if you are grateful. 

- Giving should be a way you connect with the world.  Don’t make a presentation, generously give a speech that informs, inspires and validates.  Don’t do time at your next charity function, give all of yourself including your talents and energy.  Don’t perform obligations or routine tasks, give your very best to help everyone on the team.  Once you get into the giving mindset, Big-Gives will come easier to you. 

- Whenever possible, give to others that cannot pay you back. This way, you know you are being truly generous and not simply "strategic".  By giving to those without the power to reciprocate in kind, you can give until it hurts -- which is the key to retooling your mind.  When you give to the needy, you dial into their lack which then becomes your opportunity.  This forever reframes lack from something imposed on us to something we do something about. 

READ: The Power Of Giving by Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon

Posted at 12:23 PM  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)  |  TrackBack (0)



Lovely! Thank you!


Thank you Tim. Fantastic perspective.

Best regards,



Thank you Tim for this great post.
Your two maxims ("Giving is an opportunity", and "Giving should be a way you connect with the world") are exceptionally important insights. And the story of Jonathan Schwartz demonstrates them perfectly.

In my last blog post I ask: why are we suffering from generosity deficit?


Great read today Tim. I just shared with others as I believe you are spot on with your focus on giving. I personally launched a business that uses proceeds to help non-profits for children. This was after a very personal and tragic loss in my life. Focusing on others (and giving back) helped me heal in ways I never would have guessed. On a side note, I am so glad I had the opportunity to hear you in person so many years ago when you spoke at a sales meeting in my "previous career". You continued to inspire.....


Thank you for your wise words Tim. I know that I need to give a lot more, and I also know a few people that are in a big funk that need to give as well. I will be forwarding your blog to them. Rock on!!!


Wow - what a thoughtful addition to this thread.

Everyone, check out:


Ever since I went on a humanitarian relief trip to Africa (Uganda and Kenya) in February, my focus has been on giving. Spending my life (thus far) in 'broke student' mode, I didn't think I had much to give in terms of finances. But that trip firmly put my life into perspective. Now, everytime I get focused on myself (a dangerous place for me to go) I give back to others. I donate my time, my money, my talents, and it comes back to me ten-fold. I don't mean I receive anything in return--isn't the best part of giving a gift the knowledge that you won't get anything back? But it comes back to me in a peace and security that I don't otherwise have. I've been thinking a lot about generosity and social media. I'd be really interested in your opinions. (Not to get an RT, or a blog comment. I just feel you'd genuinely get what I'm feeling, and be able to explain it to me more concisely than I've been able to myself.) If you have a minute: and

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