Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.
To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.
It was a warm and breezy evening last Thursday.
There I was sitting on a green bench on 5th street enjoying a spoonful of frijoles from my favorite Mexican food cart in Portland. Having just driven the 820 miles from Los Angeles in 2 days to make it in time for SOBcon, my greatest fear – that The Pegasus would break down somewhere on the mountains of the 101 and I-5 – was now something I could silently chuckle about as I took another bite of mole chicken.
Then, as adventurers are prone to do in the midst of a journey, Melissa and I began recounting the tales, misadventures, characters and triumphs of the first 40 days of our journey around the world.
As we continued to reminisce, I overheard something and glanced to my left.
There standing two feet from me is a middle aged man asking some kid playing on his new iPhone if he could spare a dollar for him to get a taco. The iPhone dude comprehensively ignores him. Doesn’t even look up. Surely he was too busy assassinating green pigs to bother with a hungry man whom he’s never met. The man’s head sinks and he shuffles over to an adjacent bench, sits down and glares at his empty bag on the dirty sidewalk below. The uncertain, empty gaze of a man exhausted by an ambiguous future.
I remember that gaze.
Years ago, just a few months after I had left a successful career with just $2,200 in savings, Melissa and I were struggling to make our business and life work. I can remember one night when we were in London, we had literally run out of money because of a few unforeseen expenses and had invoices that wouldn’t be paid for another three weeks. Having no credit cards and a flight back home in 4 days, we spent 3 nights at Victoria Train station sharing biscotti’s from a local Costa Cafe.
That wasn’t the only time.
I know what it’s like to pull up to a conference and sleep in a car that evening. I know what it’s like to have proudly saved $4,000 in a summer only to have it stolen from my account by an ATM scammer in a foreign country (have your bank say it’s not their problem) and be forced to sleep in a bus station for a couple nights.
I don’t know his story, and I’m sure I’ve never felt his level of desperation but I’ve had my share of rough nights to get a glimpse into his world.
I walk over, interrupt his heavy, fixed stare, introduce myself and and ask if I can buy him dinner. He tells me his name is Harry and that he’s been down on his luck for a while. After handing him two bags of food, his eyes begin to well up with the tears of a man quenched from worry for a few hours. He grabs Melissa and I, gives us both bear hugs and kisses us on our cheeks. As I walk away back towards my hotel, he yells “why would you do this, man?”
“Because I know what it’s like to sleep under benches, and because generosity always wins.”
Now what Harry will never comprehend is that no matter how great he felt walking away that evening with two bags full of chili verde burritos, it doesn’t come within 100 miles of what I felt for having been in a position to do that for him.
Human nature is to accumulate, keep and protect.
But the best of humanity, when we are at our very finest is when we deliberately choose to circumvent that nature, when we choose to give more than we get and to treat others the way we wish we could be treated. The great Cuban poet Jose Martì once said “Happiness indeed exists on this earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and the constant practice of generosity.”
This is the same reason, that even when we had very little at Misfit, we always chose to give away large quantities of our time working on social projects to help individuals a world away from our own.
No matter what conventional reason and economics may suggest, I believe at the very end of our days, when we reflect about whether our lives had any meaning at all, we will not judge ourselves by what we have accumulated but by what we gave away.
Your Fellow Misfit,
PS – If you want to hear about my next giveaway, read on below.
Last month, on the 3 day old [pursuitofeverything.com], I launched a “Once in a Lifetime” Giveaway where I would pay for someone to take a roundtrip flight to any destination anywhere in the world. In the end, my super secret Jedi Council selected Kara and Melissa is now working with her to book her trip to Brazil later this year.
Last night I took a 17 hour flight from Portland on a slight detour to Bangkok.
I’m here in Southeast Asia to speak to a group of world changers from an organization called World Vision. For the first time ever on an international flight I was upgraded to business class, and sometime around my second glass of white wine I began reflecting on my time in Portland at Liz and Terry’s amazing conference. Last week Melissa and I shared some of our history and experiences at SOBcon, and it made me recall how difficult it was when I was just getting started to get my ideas off the ground. There were a great many reason for this – lack of expertise, knowledge, time and focus and, of course, the resources to build a beautiful website that people would actually pay attention to, which is one of the reasons I decided to build Misfit into a design and creative shop four years ago.
In my next article on Thursday, I will be launching yet another giveaway. I plan to fly one person (with a great idea) out to an undisclosed location in North America for exactly 3 days, where I will personally work with you to launch your concept to the world. It won’t be just be me, the full force of the Misfits will work tirelessly to make it happen – concept, wireframes, design, development, video, copy, pricing – everything from sketchbook to market. This will not cost you a dime, it will be an all expenses paid trip as well as my team working with you, day and night, for 3 days. To give you an idea of the value of this, the entry point for just a website redesign at Misfit is $30,000.
If you have a concept for a social or business project that you’ve been wanting to get off the ground but have not had the resources or expertise to pull it off, then stay tuned for this Thursday’s post.
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