I don't know who it was that said, 'the only time you want to get even with someone is when they've done something good to you.' A beautiful sentiment and one which we can apply to both social and business advantage.
Kevin Spacey's role [he's pictured left] in the 'Pay it Forward' movie had a major impact on me years back. You may recall the story. Schoolteacher briefs kids to come up with a project that can change the world. In a nutshell, one little fellow has the idea that if anyone does something good to or for you, you 'pay it forward' to several other people. There's no 'pay back' to the person who did the favour. On this basis everyone understands that you 'make the circle beega' by allowing the ripples of gratitude to touch many others.
I'm a hopeless mathematician but I guess someone can do the sums and show how such an approach would significantly benefit communities and indeed even countries, if widely enough adopted. What I particularly like about it is that it encourages a spirit of sustainable generosity and expansion.
All too often over many years of playing mentor to many people both formally and informally, I've run across a mercifully small percentage of 'grabby' people. Who suffer from the IMM syndrome – I, Me and Mine. It's all about them. Whatever they're able to extract, beg, borrow, plagiarise, steal or leverage from someone else will be used exclusively for their own advantage. I stress that they're in the minority.
In my time as a freelance Talk Radio 702 show host many years back, I came to realise something. Most people want to help. Most people are inherently generous. But they need you to be very specific about how you wish them to help. I recall an instance where the Jukskei river had come down in flood due to heavy summer rains. Shacks had been washed away (as they are every year) near Alexandra Township in Johannesburg. We put out an appeal for help and it appeared to fall on deaf ears. Until someone more experienced than we were said, 'Tell people exactly what you want and where you want it delivered.' We asked for plastic sheeting, blankets, tinned food, bottled water, candles and matches. Within the hour truckloads of supplies were being delivered to the receiving centre. There's a wonderful lesson in this.
There are those who are good at admin, planning, logistics and co-ordination. I'm not. I'm an ideas man and a 'connector' of other people to resources. So the important take-away is to realise where we can best apply our talents and God-given abilities when the planet experiences or expresses a need.
The famed Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda said that 'service to man is worship of God.' That the highest service we can do is to serve other human beings. That's something that would fit comfortably with all religions I guess. The Gift of the Givers organisation (a wonderful Islamic co-ordinated non-denominational relief organisation) has the concept summed up in its name. Those who assist or 'give' are the real recipients in the process. To go Hindu or new-agey, its 'good karma' being built up in the spiritual bank account.
Don't be put off by the somewhat philosophical tone of this thinking. It's well-demonstrated in the field of psychology that those who give of themselves and their energies (not just their money) are mentally healthier, better balanced and happier people. It's an intrinsic of human nature that we want to and need to be involved in acts of generosity and altruism.
From today, let's all adopt the visionary young student's thought. Tell whoever does something good for you that you'll be paying it forward to several others with their kindness in mind. Tell those who ask how they can pay you back to go and pay it forward. There's an intergalactic positive revolution embedded in the concept.
[This was published in RISKsa magazine September 2010]