Paying it WAY Forward

 

Need something? I’ve got you covered.

In fact, I make it a point to help people out whenever I’m capable of doing so. If you ask, I’m there. I’ll probably ask if you need something either way, because that’s a part of who I am. It’s a big part of my personal philosophy.

It’s also a part of my business plan.

Let me explain.

Over the years I’ve discovered that the more of my own time I’m willing to give – the more value I’m willing to donate – the more I get back. I get the same value back plus a hefty amount of interest.

It’s a strange thing, too, because it’s not always the people that I help out that help me back. I’d say about 50% of the time that’s the case, but the other 50% it’s someone completely different that owes me nothing.

And that’s part of the strange, quantum-like math that makes paying it forward work. There’s a reason many people tend to call this effect ‘karma’ and talk about it like some kind of unexplainable force, like star signs or spirit crystals. It works almost TOO well, and it’s hard to figure out exactly why the people involved are taking part.

But whatever the reason, it works, and I have made it a latent part of every day (which has been incredibly satisfying AND lucrative).

There are some rules you should abide by if you’re going to consciously make paying it forward a part of your life.

1. Don’t enter into it as some way to get yours and screw over others. I doubt many people would admit this to themselves even if they were to realize that it was their intention, but I want to make this very clear: this won’t work for you if you aren’t fully invested in it for its own sake.

2. Don’t keep taps on who owes who. This is not a system of barter, it’s more of a ‘Give a Penny, Take a Penny’ tray. If you’ve got extra effort to spare, help somebody out. Then, when you need some assistance, the other folk who are down with the system will be there.

3. Give generously, but don’t be taken advantage of. I have many rules on what I will do for people, and the extent to which I’ll help before I need to start charging/rethinking even being there. I give a whole lot of branding advice away for free, for example, but generally I won’t do design work for free (with rare exceptions). Giving advice is a relatively simple thing for me to do, doesn’t cost me anything and allows me to show my expertise while at the same time giving value. Then if the person wants to take things up a notch, they can pay for my services, and if not they can build on what I gave them and everything is copacetic. Doing design work, on the other hand, is more tangible and required a lot more time on my part.

4. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. The last thing I want you to think is that you have to acquiesce to anyone who asks you for anything. If you don’t want to help out for ANY reason, don’t. Tell them someone else who may be able to help, or just apologize and tell them you’re too bogged down/not feeling in the zone. Helping people isn’t compulsory.

5. Don’t spend time you don’t have. Take care of your business first. If you can’t make enough money to pay rent and buy food, then you won’t be able to help others for long…it’s just not a sustainable business model. If you’ve got the basics or more for yourself, however, consider taking some of that extra time and using it to invest in the penny jar. When you need a penny yourself, you’ll be happy you did.

47 comments

  1. I have been so amazed at how well this has worked out for you! And it’s definitely one of the best business sense things I picked up from you. Now…if you have any sort of a problem with saying no…like ever…this is a tricky thing to begin doing without being taken advantage of, but setting up rules for yourself on what you will and won’t do for free is key to making it work. I should write that down…

    Another brilliant article, Colin! You rock my Saturday :)

  2. I have been so amazed at how well this has worked out for you! And it’s definitely one of the best business sense things I picked up from you. Now…if you have any sort of a problem with saying no…like ever…this is a tricky thing to begin doing without being taken advantage of, but setting up rules for yourself on what you will and won’t do for free is key to making it work. I should write that down…

    Another brilliant article, Colin! You rock my Saturday :)

  3. Thats such a great attitude to have. I wish more people thought like this.

    The human brain is hardwired to think in terms of value. It’s a survival thing from cave man days. Is it worth risking your life stealing food from a sabre-tooth tiger kind of thing.

    Nowadays, when someone does a favour then people feel indebted for that. They will more often than not repay the favour plus some more. As two people trade more and more favours, a synergy quickly builds up and the total value fare exceeds that of each individual combined. Hope this bit makes sense!

    My view is that you should also be prepared to “go first” when offering value to others, like you said without any expectations. People can see right through non-genuine offers, so avoid them at all costs.

    Keep up the good work.
    Mark

  4. Thats such a great attitude to have. I wish more people thought like this.

    The human brain is hardwired to think in terms of value. It’s a survival thing from cave man days. Is it worth risking your life stealing food from a sabre-tooth tiger kind of thing.

    Nowadays, when someone does a favour then people feel indebted for that. They will more often than not repay the favour plus some more. As two people trade more and more favours, a synergy quickly builds up and the total value fare exceeds that of each individual combined. Hope this bit makes sense!

    My view is that you should also be prepared to “go first” when offering value to others, like you said without any expectations. People can see right through non-genuine offers, so avoid them at all costs.

    Keep up the good work.
    Mark

  5. All great advice. When I read this the first thing that I though of for some reason was this girl I used to date. She was a little on the crazy side. She would do nice things for me out of the blue, and then later on when she wanted something (usually clothing or something expensive) she would reference those things that she did in hopes that I would feel some guilt and sense of obligation. That’s no way to do things, but a lot of people are that way.

    Anyway, great stuff Colin, this is just yet another example of how I can really relate to how you do things.

  6. All great advice. When I read this the first thing that I though of for some reason was this girl I used to date. She was a little on the crazy side. She would do nice things for me out of the blue, and then later on when she wanted something (usually clothing or something expensive) she would reference those things that she did in hopes that I would feel some guilt and sense of obligation. That’s no way to do things, but a lot of people are that way.

    Anyway, great stuff Colin, this is just yet another example of how I can really relate to how you do things.

  7. Similar to some of your points but with a twist; when people EXPECT something for free it tends to be a bad situation. Even if I was willing to help, the entitlement attitude is something that should just be avoided because it just tends to go downhill from there. Often a lack of gratitude seems to accompany those people and situations as well.

    It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine actually.

    Not saying I never give back, I am very active with a local community organization that’s awesome, gets a lot done and benefits people in a variety of ways.

  8. Similar to some of your points but with a twist; when people EXPECT something for free it tends to be a bad situation. Even if I was willing to help, the entitlement attitude is something that should just be avoided because it just tends to go downhill from there. Often a lack of gratitude seems to accompany those people and situations as well.

    It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine actually.

    Not saying I never give back, I am very active with a local community organization that’s awesome, gets a lot done and benefits people in a variety of ways.

  9. I like to think that for now (since your journey has just begun!), few people can testify that you are 100% honest on this more than I can: you are always willing to give, and we are both great examples of how well it has worked out for us being there for each other without expectancy of something in return. Carol’s test, the wonderful ASWers and much more comes to my mind, and I have to thank you for that.

    “It’s not always the people that I help out that help me back. I’d say about 50% of the time that’s the case, but the other 50% it’s someone completely different that owes me nothing.”

    This is what I mean by connecting the dots :)

  10. I like to think that for now (since your journey has just begun!), few people can testify that you are 100% honest on this more than I can: you are always willing to give, and we are both great examples of how well it has worked out for us being there for each other without expectancy of something in return. Carol’s test, the wonderful ASWers and much more comes to my mind, and I have to thank you for that.

    “It’s not always the people that I help out that help me back. I’d say about 50% of the time that’s the case, but the other 50% it’s someone completely different that owes me nothing.”

    This is what I mean by connecting the dots :)

  11. I very much agree.

    That’s why I set up my birthday celebration with that spirit in mind.

    I hope you don’t mind my sharing my birthday What Can I Do For You? post here.

    So far I’ve received 20 challenges and they keep coming. It’s actually been quite amazing to see how the benefit of each challenge is reciprocal.

    Lovey post, Colin.

  12. I very much agree.

    That’s why I set up my birthday celebration with that spirit in mind.

    I hope you don’t mind my sharing my birthday What Can I Do For You? post here.

    So far I’ve received 20 challenges and they keep coming. It’s actually been quite amazing to see how the benefit of each challenge is reciprocal.

    Lovey post, Colin.

  13. This is an amazing post, wow, i literally had to do a “Double read” of this one because it just hit home on a lot of levels… and you are right, the more you give out, the more you get back…

  14. This is an amazing post, wow, i literally had to do a “Double read” of this one because it just hit home on a lot of levels… and you are right, the more you give out, the more you get back…

  15. Excellent points. In my travels and just in life, I’ve found that so many people have helped me in such selfless ways that paying it forward is really more like paying it back, just to someone else. If I don’t want to be a free rider, it’s simply my only choice.

    My favorite experience was when I met this crazy woman from Israel in Spain. She cracked me up and I could barely understand her in either Spanish or English. But one day I discovered her sleeping on a bench and learned she couldn’t access her credit cards or cash her traveler’s checks for some reason . . . she intended to hitch hike back to Madrid from San Sebastian. . . I pulled out enough cash for her to make the trip and be sure she could eat: 4,000 pesetas (yep, we’re talking pre-euro zone). I just figured I’d never see that cash again and didn’t care since I’d been helped so many times.

    3 weeks later, when I was back in France I got this letter from Madrid with 4,000 pesetas in it.

  16. I often see this in my own life though not so much with money as with time and sharing my skills without concern or care rather I get paid back or not. It is sadly not part of my day to day with the world but I am hoping to remedy that.

  17. I often see this in my own life though not so much with money as with time and sharing my skills without concern or care rather I get paid back or not. It is sadly not part of my day to day with the world but I am hoping to remedy that.

  18. I’m a strong believer in karma and what goes around comes around. It may not come from a source that you thought it would, but there is a fine balance in the universe.

    I looked for one way to pay it forward with this article and couldn’t. How come you don’t have a retweet button so that I can let other people know about your amazing and insightful posts? Oops, just noticed the Share? Share? links. I guess I am trained to look for the icons and not the text links anymore :-)

    I also firmly believe that if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. Helping other begrudgingly doesn’t really help anyone.

    Karen

  19. I’m a strong believer in karma and what goes around comes around. It may not come from a source that you thought it would, but there is a fine balance in the universe.

    I looked for one way to pay it forward with this article and couldn’t. How come you don’t have a retweet button so that I can let other people know about your amazing and insightful posts? Oops, just noticed the Share? Share? links. I guess I am trained to look for the icons and not the text links anymore :-)

    I also firmly believe that if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. Helping other begrudgingly doesn’t really help anyone.

    Karen

  20. Great article, Colin! It is very important to help/give to others without expecting anything in return, but your right! It seems that, with the right intentions, you really do get back what you give and then some. Not quite sure how or why that works, but it can be very beneficial when you most need it.

    Also, I really like point #4. A lot of times I agree to do something I really don’t want to do out of guilt or because I simply can not say no. I’ve noticed that this one trait holds a lot of people back (it can also enable someone who doesn’t need enabling). One person I know has been stuck in the same rut for 20 years of her life because she is too focused on others and doesn’t take the time to improve her own life. I believe that, although you should make an effort to help others most all of the time, the more you help yourself the more you can give to others.

  21. Great article, Colin! It is very important to help/give to others without expecting anything in return, but your right! It seems that, with the right intentions, you really do get back what you give and then some. Not quite sure how or why that works, but it can be very beneficial when you most need it.

    Also, I really like point #4. A lot of times I agree to do something I really don’t want to do out of guilt or because I simply can not say no. I’ve noticed that this one trait holds a lot of people back (it can also enable someone who doesn’t need enabling). One person I know has been stuck in the same rut for 20 years of her life because she is too focused on others and doesn’t take the time to improve her own life. I believe that, although you should make an effort to help others most all of the time, the more you help yourself the more you can give to others.

  22. Great piece, Colin! Some of your points actually remind of me of the relationship I have with close friends. We take care of each other. It’s not about keeping track of who owes who what (in fact, we usually forget the balance sheet entirely), but about doing what you can to help out and trusting that your friends will be there for you when you need them.

    But extending this to the world at large … that’s a whole new challenge.

  23. Great piece, Colin! Some of your points actually remind of me of the relationship I have with close friends. We take care of each other. It’s not about keeping track of who owes who what (in fact, we usually forget the balance sheet entirely), but about doing what you can to help out and trusting that your friends will be there for you when you need them.

    But extending this to the world at large … that’s a whole new challenge.

  24. @andi: Thanks chick! Glad you liked it!

    @Pro Nomad: Makes total sense to me, and I find that being willing to give first without expectations drastically increases the chance that others will want to help you out.

    @Nick: Word.

    @Nate: Ugh, I hate that. When people do something for you and then EXPECT you to do something in return (unless of course it’s an exchange that’s worked out ahead of time, which is totally fine), you can’t help but feel tricked and used. Don’t do this to people, people!

    @Hilary: I agree. And in fact, I’m usually a whole lot more willing to help people who offer to pay or otherwise make an exchange for what I’m giving, first. The expectation that the world owes you something, on the other hand, is a very destructive thing.

    @Carlos: Connecting the dots indeed! You and I have a long future of helping each other out in front of us, methinks.

    @Leigh: That’s such a stellar idea, Leigh! Go check it out if you get the chance, folks!

    @Maren: Thanks Maren, glad it resonated with you!

    @Nate St. Pierre: Thanks buddy! Proud to have you as a reader!

    @Simple in France: Very good point. No matter when you start giving, you are kind of already paying someone back, just probably not the person you’re helping out directly. To get where you are today, you’ve already had a whole lot of people help you out, so paying it forward is really just continuing that long tradition.

    @Cherylann: Yeah, do what you can, but definitely don’t spend what you don’t have (effort-wise). It’s great to help, but don’t put yourself in the position where you’ll need more help than you gave to make up for the difference.

    @Karen: Thanks for the insight, Karen. I’ve actually had a few people comment that they’ve looked for the icons and completely skipped the ‘Share’ button, so I’m thinking I may change it soon. Just have to come up with a nice, minimal way to do it!

    @Richard: Yeah, I don’t understand the physics of it either, but I know it works. There are a lot of sociological premises to back it up, too, so I know it’s not some kind of Law of Attraction deal. It’s true, too, that one shouldn’t sacrifice oneself for others. If you do that, you just create more need, whereas if you’re able to empower yourself first, you’ll have even more extra effort to invest and the world will have a surplus, rather than a deficit.

    @Jeffrey: Exactly! A big component of my personal philosophy is that everyone in the world is your brother or sister…we’re all just good friends who haven’t met yet, and if we stick together and help each other other (without sacrificing ourselves in the process), then we’ll all be a lot better off.

  25. @andi: Thanks chick! Glad you liked it!

    @Pro Nomad: Makes total sense to me, and I find that being willing to give first without expectations drastically increases the chance that others will want to help you out.

    @Nick: Word.

    @Nate: Ugh, I hate that. When people do something for you and then EXPECT you to do something in return (unless of course it’s an exchange that’s worked out ahead of time, which is totally fine), you can’t help but feel tricked and used. Don’t do this to people, people!

    @Hilary: I agree. And in fact, I’m usually a whole lot more willing to help people who offer to pay or otherwise make an exchange for what I’m giving, first. The expectation that the world owes you something, on the other hand, is a very destructive thing.

    @Carlos: Connecting the dots indeed! You and I have a long future of helping each other out in front of us, methinks.

    @Leigh: That’s such a stellar idea, Leigh! Go check it out if you get the chance, folks!

    @Maren: Thanks Maren, glad it resonated with you!

    @Nate St. Pierre: Thanks buddy! Proud to have you as a reader!

    @Simple in France: Very good point. No matter when you start giving, you are kind of already paying someone back, just probably not the person you’re helping out directly. To get where you are today, you’ve already had a whole lot of people help you out, so paying it forward is really just continuing that long tradition.

    @Cherylann: Yeah, do what you can, but definitely don’t spend what you don’t have (effort-wise). It’s great to help, but don’t put yourself in the position where you’ll need more help than you gave to make up for the difference.

    @Karen: Thanks for the insight, Karen. I’ve actually had a few people comment that they’ve looked for the icons and completely skipped the ‘Share’ button, so I’m thinking I may change it soon. Just have to come up with a nice, minimal way to do it!

    @Richard: Yeah, I don’t understand the physics of it either, but I know it works. There are a lot of sociological premises to back it up, too, so I know it’s not some kind of Law of Attraction deal. It’s true, too, that one shouldn’t sacrifice oneself for others. If you do that, you just create more need, whereas if you’re able to empower yourself first, you’ll have even more extra effort to invest and the world will have a surplus, rather than a deficit.

    @Jeffrey: Exactly! A big component of my personal philosophy is that everyone in the world is your brother or sister…we’re all just good friends who haven’t met yet, and if we stick together and help each other other (without sacrificing ourselves in the process), then we’ll all be a lot better off.

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  27. Thanks for sharing the common sense tips for paying it forward. The more I give, the more I get. As you noted it’s usually not from the source given to, but it’s always from The Source.

  28. Thanks for sharing the common sense tips for paying it forward. The more I give, the more I get. As you noted it’s usually not from the source given to, but it’s always from The Source.

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  35. I am amazed that you should feel the need to point this out.
    Obviously I am naïve in thinking we were brought up to think and act this way and it was the way our parents and grandparents were brought up. In my case, it was true. And it worked. Not as a religious or other duty. Just human nature.
    Still can’t get over that this should have to be earmarked this way – folks, this is NORMAL HUMAN BEHAVIOUR.

  36. OK, sorry, I am new here. I just realised you are younger than my daughter. Maybe that explains it!

    • I agree that it SHOULD be common sense, but it’s remarkable how many people (of all ages) don’t seem to understand how this works. There’s a predisposition to take and to try and take more, but unless we’re taught (whether by parents or grandparents or some teacher that succeeded in getting through) about this at an early age, it actually comes as a revelation to many.

      Especially – but certainly not limited to – within the business world.

      • I absolutely completely 100% agree. This type of generosity, and behavior is not the norm, it’s the exception, and it’s a great way to stand out.

        I see people acting the opposite of this day in and day out, both in life and business.

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