Be Generous

Wednesday, October 15 2008 was Blog Action Day.  Bloggers from all over the world did posts on the subject of poverty.  I did one on the working poor.    I read many of the posts and found that several dealt with the idea of generosity. 

As I was thinking about today’s post on interpersonal competence, one of the five keys to success that I discuss in my latest book, Straight Talk for Success, I kept coming back to the idea of generosity.
In Straight Talk, I suggest that if you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to do three things. 1) Understand yourself, and use this self awareness to better understand others.  2) Build and nurture positive, long term relationships with the important people in your life.  3) Learn how to resolve conflict positively.

If you want to build strong relationships, you need to be generous – not just with your friends, but with the world.

Way back in the 1980s, I was working in New York City.  I worked with a guy by the name of Nick.  His last name escapes me now.  Nick lived in the New York suburbs.  Every day he took the train to Grand Central Station and walked a couple of blocks to work.  In doing this, Nick was just like several million other people.

However, Nick was different in a very important way.  Every day, as he exited the train station, he would meet a homeless man.  He and this homeless man would walk a block to a local deli.  Nick would purchase a cup of coffee for himself and a breakfast sandwich and coffee for the homeless man.

Nick never told anyone about this.  I found out because I happened to run into him one morning, just as he was meeting his homeless friend.  When I asked, Nick told me that he had been doing this for over five years.  He said that he couldn’t solve the homeless problem in New York, nor even the problems of this one man, but that he could help one person have something hot to eat every day.  That is true generosity of spirit. 

As I’ve been learning more about the world of on line marketing, two people have been very generous with their time with me. Mike Litman and Dan Robey have gone out of their way to help me learn some fundamentals.  They are generous people.

You don’t have to give away your money or your time to be generous.  You can be generous in spirit.  Smile at the people who you meet during the day.  Take a minute and say hello to the hotel doorman or housekeeper.  Engage the security guard at the building where you work in some conversation.  Hold the door open for someone who has his or her hands full.  Help someone stow his or her bag in the overhead on an airplane.  Pick up a piece of trash on the street and put it in a waste basket.  You get the idea.  Generosity of spirit is nothing more than being nice to the people you meet every day.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are interpersonally competent.  Interpersonally competent people are generous.  Truly generous people give their time to help others – even if it something as simple as holding open a door for someone, or picking up a piece of trash.  If you stop and look around, you can’t help but notice thousands of opportunities to demonstrate your generosity of spirit.  First become aware then follow through.

That’s my take on generosity and interpersonal competence.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment.  If you know someone like Nick who is truly generous, please share his or her story.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Bud, you are so right that generosity of spirit costs little, but adds much in value. Trying to be generous helps get me outside of myself – to be present to the world around me. Whatever act is carried out – from a smile to a sandwich – helps make you more aware. Awareness can lead to greater creativity, greater motivation, and a better understanding of your part in this world. Thanks for reminding me to be more generous!

  2. Ben:
    Thanks for your generosity in taking the time to comment on my blog post.
    And you’re right. Generosity does make you more aware — and awareness leads to a whole lot of good things.
    Have a great weekend.

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