Encourage Generosity: Let Others Contribute To You

encourage generosity dona nd jayEntrepreneurs often start businesses because they are eager to share their ideas, gifts, and talent with the world.  This is a good thing.  And yet that generous instinct can become a distinct drawback if it’s not accompanied by an openness to receive.

We know what it’s like to create something that we think is precious, and take it out into the world; only to find that not everyone sees our baby as the winner of the adorable baby contest.  When that happens it stings a little. When it happens repeatedly we can start to lose self-confidence.

So we try harder and harder to give more value, perhaps not realizing that the missing skill is not giving more, but being open to receiving more.

Our talent thrives in a flow of generosity.  But generosity isn’t sustainable in a world of selfless giving.  Imagine a world in which we all want to give, but there is nobody willing to receive?  “No thanks, I don’t need anything.” “I don’t want to bother anybody.”  “I’d rather do it myself.”  Talk about a trade imbalance. For generosity to work, it must find a flow: give, receive; give, receive…

If you could only do one thing to help your business prosper, stimulate the flow of generosity in your world.  Tell people what you need, be open to their gift, and be gracious when receiving it. It is this ability to receive, as well as to give, which promotes the flow of generosity.

I used to lead daylong business planning workshops with groups of people: men and women of all ages.  Near the end of the day each individual would step to the front of the room and ask to be acknowledged for something.  We made it clear that it could be for anything: an idea, an accomplishment, a challenge they’d met…anything.  And then the rest of the people in the room would give them a sustained round of applause.

It never failed.  When the applause began, you would see recipients standing with arms and legs crossed, gazing at the ceiling, performing some cutesy act, or racing from the platform; anything to deflect the response. Sadly, they cut themselves off from the flow of generosity.

Over the years, working with thousands of people individually and in groups, this “truth” seems to be born out.  It is easier to give than receive.  And yet, from a business perspective, this “receiving muscle” is well worth developing. When you allow others to contribute to you, you are encouraging their investment, their investment in the success of your enterprise, their investment in you.

Consider another possible “truth.”  Human beings are not built as stand alones.  When you allow someone to contribute to you, you are aligning yourself with the natural order of things.  When you encourage the flow of generosity in the world, you are participating in a virtuous cycle.

Encourage generosity. Let others contribute to you.

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