Generosity’s Second Discipline: Networking


Generosity can be tough!

Here's what I know – if you've not seen something modeled out for you, it's very hard to learn it (or even imagine it). That's part of what makes generosity such a tough thing.

You may have spent a life around people who were doing the exact opposite of what I've been sharing here in the last few days. People race to accumulate more and more (and trust me, I have a lot of stuff, so I'm not judging). But we all watch the opposite behavior, so it's not surprising to me that generosity is a tough thing to pick up.

To that end, I've tried to share with you some of the basic building blocks that I hope will help you:

  1. The opposite of generosity is disinterest.
  2. Give with the expectation to get back (just not from the recipient of your generosity).
  3. The first lesson is learning how to receive (not give).
  4. The first discipline is to ask “How can I be part of the solution?”
  5. Start by giving out of your own abundance – it's easier.

But there's more – so much more I want to share with you.

Now, again I'll caveat, I know you subscribed to my blog because I write about WordPress, or about a specific thing in the WordPress community (like membership plugins). Or you've heard me speak, and came to read tips on storytelling and public presenting.

I know you never signed up for a lesson on generosity. I get that.

But I am asking you to stick with me here, for a few more days before you take off or unsubscribe. I'm inviting you to stick with me and see if something in here helps you – even in your day to day business (a world I write about much more than stuff like this).

Either way, I write on, because this is a topic that I'm passionate about – and it's only for some days in December.

Generosity's Second Discipline

With that all out of the way – let's look at generosity's second discipline. The first asked you a question – one that you could ask yourself over and over. The second is similar.

Who do I know?

It's a strange question, if you think about it. Normally when we think of generosity, we think of giving stuff. But as I walk you into my way of thinking, I can't help but take you to where and how my brain works. And networking is a key part of generosity.

Networking is about introducing someone to someone else. But it's more than that. Because it reinforces a single truth – you can't be all things to all people. In fact, it reinforces a second reality – it's not about you.

Remember that the act (or discipline) of generosity is about seeing the world beyond yourself. The more you ask these questions, the more you're challenged to think about others, not just yourself.

Now, I'm not saying you should ignore yourself or your reality. But we all instinctively think about ourselves. In order to train yourself to think about others, I find these questions help.

The first was, “How can I be part of the solution?” but sometimes the reality is that you can't help. You don't have the resources or the know-how. But that's where question two comes in, “Who do I know that might be able to help?

The Power of Networking

Here's the beautiful ancillary by-product of asking yourself this question regularly. It means when you meet people, you'll approach them differently. You'll ask questions about them, to truly know who they are and what they're about, so that you can leverage that information later.

I did this with my friend Syed Balkhi. Within a few hours of meeting him I knew he was not only interesting but had an incredible life story. I also found him engaging and entertaining. So after hanging out a few times, I asked him specifically – “What do you do? What are you known for? How do you help people?”

Not don't get me wrong, I didn't ask him this after 2 minutes. It was after hanging out several times. I was genuinely interested because I considered him a friend, but I also wanted to be able to connect him to others in my network when they had needs he could meet.

And as he answered, I learned even more about him.

I could write a book on all the ways I'm impressed by Syed, but you can meet him on your own – by reading his blog.

My point is that I got to know Syed better simply because I asked additional questions so that I could better introduce others to him. I'd tell you his answers, but he does it better.

The Cost of Networking

Here's what I know – and what I hope you're picking up – I'm trying to get you to see generosity in a different light. One that doesn't require that you were born with some special disposition to care more than others.

I want you to see that generosity doesn't have to be huge acts that require you to be rich. Making a connection between two people had hardly any cost. But it can be powerful.

There's very little cost and tons of potential gain – that's a simple way to start learning more about being a generous person (by habit).

It's the Small Things

When I was in college, in my freshman year, I was mentored by someone who I really valued. I really appreciated the time he'd invested. So I used a credit card to purchase a car stereo for his car (his had broken). It was extravagant. Truly awesome. But also way more than I could have or should have spent.

He thanked me and received it well. But he sat down to teach me a lesson in generosity I won't forget. He challenged me to think about the little ways I could be generous rather than the big ways that would put me in debt.

I won't forget that lesson. And over time I figured out that this was one way, even when I didn't have much money, I could be generous – by connecting people.

So my challenge to you is to start asking yourself, as you hear others share a challenge in their lives, “Who do I know?”

And, like all the other posts in this series, would you do me the honor of sharing it with folks you know. I'm hoping that even as I challenge you, I'm helping you – and I'd love to help others. So share this broadly – it's free.