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 tabs 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.

Update: December 11, 2016

This was an early attempt to explain to people why they should be nice and do well by others, and why this is still aligned with business goals.

I find that it’s strangely necessary to bracket these sorts of arguments in very business-like terms, and even quantify the costs and results in a way that borderline sociopathic people will understand, which can turn off some people who aren’t operating on that level, but which I find resonates a lot better with the cutthroat types I’m trying to reach.