In my journey into the sharing economy and beyond, I’ve drawn many conclusions and had a series of revelations that would have been impossible without hundreds of interconnected experiences. To sum things up, I think generosity is one of the keys to life. I still find myself wanting to hold back in many circumstances, holding onto the idea of me and mine, the ego and attachment – but it’s when I let go of that, trusting in the loop of gifts that I feel most at home, when I see and experience something new.
And in this newness, there is a consciousness and a paradigm shift that’s running through every aspect of our infrastructure, policy, culture, awareness, and way of being. We’re moving from “me” to “we.” We’re switching from staunch individualism to an understanding that we can’t exist without each other or the planet. Sure, we can find ways to cure aging and disease, playing games of wealth and importance, but there’s something more – something that begs to been seen, heard, felt, experienced, and understood. That thing is abundance – that thing is generosity – that thing is heart.
When you have heart, you stop being just out to protect and support yourself and start seeking out ways to support your environment and build the reality you know is possible. In my journey, I’ve found a lot of people that I can measurably impact.
There are all different ways that people need help and support. Here are a few that I’ve found to make the biggest difference.
Hold the space
There are times when a friend shows up and needs someone, freaks out about a failure or a relationship that’s not working, verbally vomits all sorts of crazy incoherent babble, or even gets insulting, judgmental or otherwise unruly. Sometimes, the best thing to do is listen – ask questions, and if you’re not in a conversation, but rather witnessing this sort of debacle – breathe positive energy into the space. Let it be as it is without changing the situation or trying to fix it. Just be there and try not to let your emotions get entangled with theirs. Allow their words to pass over you without condemning them. When you hold the space, you give people room to be human and to vent, to let go, to release, and to be heard in a way that most of us are never privy to.
I often catch myself being a terrible listener, especially when I’m bored or stressed. And I notice immediately when I don’t have someones full attention – if they are half there, I can feel it even if all of the nods are properly timed and placed. Listening deeply means listening intuitively, asking questions to help the other person clarify what they are saying, draw out their thoughts and ideas, and otherwise provide a presence that tells them you care, find them interesting, and that you want to hear what they have to say. Breathe when you have the urge to interrupt and let the person feel your presence.
Tell them they are on the right track
In a city like San Francisco where ideas are a common currency, people are quick to poke holes in one another’s ideas, businesses, philosophies, etc. But, what I’ve found is that when you look for what is good, right, agreeable, and powerful in what is begging to be birthed and understood, you give someone else the strength they need to say “Heck yes, I can do this!” Healthy criticism is great, but why not be critical in a positive way, in a way that helps someone else shine. You can still say what you think, just the vantage point of your perspective starts with the question of “What’s awesome about this – what do I agree with?” And then, do the thing that people often desperately need – tell them why you think they are on the right track.
One of my favorite quotes gets tossed around a lot, but I think that’s for good reason. There is a truth in this:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world.”
– Marianne Williamson
When you go out and live through belief, strength, and your souls deepest desires, you give others the inspiration they need to do the same. If it’s true that we are the sum of the five people we hang out with the most, don’t you want to be the one who raises the bar by living a life that is full of dimension, creativity, and prosperity (whatever that means for you)?
In a culture that dumbs down personalities that don’t fit in with our familial, political, or social structures, one of the hardest things to do is be yourself. When you’re yourself, not everyone is going to agree with you, like you, do business with you, or be your friend. Many lead a numb existence of apathy with predictable routines, jobs they hate, and relationships that don’t work, coming home to ready-made dinners, and TV shows that pacify them. When you express who you are, your world will open. The things that don’t fit will fall away. The people that don’t fit will fall away. The job that doesn’t fit will, you guessed it, will fall away. And the miraculous thing about this is that when you’re yourself, you’re living through truth, which helps other do the same. When you wake up, the other people in your life are forced to wake up with you. And I can’t think of anything more supportive or empowering than waking up with the people you care about the most.
Introduce them to someone who could change their life
Having been directly involved in four marriages that would not have happened without my participation, I can tell you we all have the ability to gift one another powerful connections. When you listen deeply to the people in your life and understand who they are and what they need, finding a person that can help them or join them on their journey is easy. And it’s not like changing someones life is not transmutable.
Another quote I love is:
“If you change my life, I will change yours.”
I’m not sure where that quote came from, but I have an inking that it originated from The Alchemist, one of my favorite books.
Ask them what they need before responding
I often get asked for business or marketing advice from a friend, peer, or investor. A friend will call me up wanting relationship advice or my own romantic partner will want tactical advice on how to deal with a situation. Often what someone actually wants is not your diatribe of truth, with a logical argument to back it up. Sometimes people are looking for reassurance, other times they just want to be heard, often they are looking for agreement, on and on. The best way to handle this is to ask them what they are really asking you for. Sometimes the answer will astound you and even them. Once you get that information, you can proceed and if you have anything additional to add – again, ask – “would my thoughts on xyz” be helpful to you. I know it sounds over the top, but this works wonders in getting to a real conversation where both people are participating and not just combating back and forth with their opposing side of wanting to be right.
Generosity still feels like a foreign concept to me, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to practice it. The beautiful thing about generosity is that it’s contagious. When you’re unequivocally generous with someone, loads of questions fire off – at least, that’s what happens to me. “Do they want something from me? Do I deserve this? Why are they being so nice? What can I do for them?” And what I’ve learned is; generosity just is. There doesn’t have to be a reason. You can be generous by leading through you heart. All of these ways of supporting someone are generous. You don’t have to physically hand someone something for generosity to occur. When you let go of the fear that you won’t have enough time, money, energy, or love to go around if you are generous, something magical happens. You see that everything is connected to everything else and when you touch someone, they touch you.
While you can’t be everywhere all of the time and help and support every single human being you happen upon, what you can do is listen to your gut and respond when you think you are there for a reason, and this person needs you, as you need them. I’m still learning how to do all of these things, and part of writing this is a cathartic reminder for myself to be present and loving, while being awesome and strong, generous and kind simultaneously, prospering along the way.
I suppose that the point of all of this is, supporting others is the road to supporting yourself – only the road is more of a roundabout than a typical intersection.