Success Starts Early - Give Back
The lowest point on the surface of the earth is also one of the saltiest - the Dead Sea, a lake situated on the border of Israel and Jordan, sits over 1300' below sea level. Because of its extremely low elevation, no streams or rivers are able to flow out of the lake, creating what scientists call a "closed basin". That means whatever salt (or any other debris) a stream brings with it will stay in the lake, long after the water itself has evaporated away. The salt may be valuable to companies that mine and sell the stuff, but it certainly does not lend itself to supporting life...which might have contributed to the name of this famous body of water. As we each try to figure out how to have our own better life, we can also learn a lesson about how important it is to focus on more than just receiving. We have to learn how to give back.
Up to this point, our topics have been mainly focused on what we can receive. Mentors and authors, as we have discussed, can provide us with many benefits - education, support, guidance, and so much more. If we absorb all of these good things without having an outlet, however, we will end up just as dead as that salty lake. Does that seem like it doesn't make sense? I mean, if we were trying to collect something like rocks or stamps or baseball cards, we wouldn't get more of them by giving them away, right? But remember, one of the first practices we discussed was defining what success really meant, and this is one of those times when you realize that the goal can never be about merely gathering everything to yourself.
What kind of outlet am I talking about? The first outlet is simply gratitude: expressing thanks and giving credit to those who have helped you. Second, I would suggest imitation: not copying everything that someone else has done for you, but rather modeling the kind of influence they had. Finally, there is the idea of "paying it forward" where you are willing to give away what you have received, simply to benefit someone else. How would this look in real life? If you were a young basketball player, for instance, who had a coach spend extra time with you after practice to work on one of your skills, you obviously couldn't be a coach for other kids your age. But you could certainly show gratitude by practicing that skill on your own, and you could imitate your coach by sharing the tips you'd learned with other players on your team. Then, although there would be no obvious benefit to your team, you might do the same thing to help another young player who didn't make the team this year and wanted to do better next time.
Every situation is unique and it may take practice (and a few mistakes) before you get it right, but when you try to find ways to be a more helpful, generous person you'll realize there are always opportunities. And you'll discover that giving away your time, money, and abilities will enrich you far more than you could've guessed.
Give something away! Maybe that means spending less time on entertainment this week in order to help someone out. Or it could be taking a few dollars from your birthday money give give to a good cause. It might even be as simple as writing an encouraging card or note for someone in the hospital or nursing home.
There's a short book called The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann that does a great job of illustrating this simple truth. It's worth tracking down to read, either from a library or to purchase for your own.