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Give More, Get More

Monday, April 25, 2011 , 2 Comments

bowdywanders.com Singapore Travel Blog Philippines Photo :: Philippines :: Give More, Get More
Give More, Get More 
"... I’m pretty sure that my future grandchildren won’t want to hear stories about all the money I made. Experiences matter more."
“Ever been on a helicopter?” asked the general.

“Yes,” I replied, “I’ve been a couple of times.”

“Ever been on a helicopter in Washington, D.C., at an altitude of 200 feet?” he followed up.

“No,” was my obvious answer.

A week later, I was scurrying around our nation’s capital in a Bell UH-1 helicopter with the doors pulled back at altitudes of 200 feet and less. If you’ve ever seen a movie about the Vietnam War, then you know what kind of helicopter this was. Big and loud, the Huey was the two-rotor workhorse of the time.  

It was a remarkable experience. We didn’t fly over the Washington monument -- we flew next to the Washington monument. We took a pass by the Pentagon in restricted airspace.

The question is: Why would the Air Force let me piggyback on one of its birds as it ran an exercise around the capital? The answer is simple: service.

Before this whole surreal adventure began four years ago, I would go into meetings or meet people with the hope of getting something from them. It wasn’t a bad thing, per se, as I had something to sell and I wanted them to buy it. Of course, I wanted to do good work for my clients and wanted to grow my business at the same time. It didn’t matter what it was -- a new piece of business, a boost to an existing piece of business, more money, or more work -- more-more-more was the mindset. That was how it was before I discovered the Why.

If anyone ever accused me of being too aggressive, my rationale (to them and to myself) was always the same: “If I don’t seize the opportunity, someone else will.

Money Before Happiness?

When growth was my primary objective, no one ever offered me an opportunity to fly in a helicopter. In fact, before the Why, I had only a few of those experiences of the kind we hope to recount to our grandkids one day. Back then, it was all about building the business. Sadly, for all that effort, I’m pretty sure that my future grandchildren won’t want to hear stories about all the money I made

Experiences matter more.

Discovering the Why set me on a new path -- one of giving without worrying about what I’ll get in return; a path of serving the people and causes that matter to me without a thought of what I could get out of it.

Does it still count as giving if you expect something in return? 

“...if I didn’t eventually get anything back for all my giving, I would speak up, or the relationship would naturally drift apart. It was clear I had no idea what the concept of giving really meant."

It was clear why the general had offered me the opportunity to take the flight. "You’re generous with your time and your energy,” he said. “I’m grateful for what you have given me and the Air Force and I don’t want to take advantage.” (Something rarely, if ever, heard from companies)

“Sir,” I replied, “what matters to me is making progress where progress can be made". We’ll let the wheels of bureaucracy grind forwards should we decide to formalize a relationship, but until then, consider my time my way of serving my country.”

And that’s when he made the offer to join the flight.

Generosity Is Not Sold

The maxim is so well known, we can all recite it together: The more you give, the more you get. I, like everyone else, have always known the maxim, but I didn’t know what it really meant until now. “Giving,” as it relates to this context, is to do something for someone without any expectation or want for anything in return. It is a mindset, not a practice. Prior to four years ago, I thought of it more as an equation -- if I give, then eventually I’ll get. So I gave and expected something back in return at some point in the future. My idea of “doing good” was having the patience to wait a long time before I asked for anything in return. I kept a mental scorecard, and if I didn’t eventually get anything back for all my giving, I would speak up, or the relationship would naturally drift apart. It was clear I had no idea what the concept of giving really meant.

That flight was a remarkable treat, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I could never buy or demand. It is one of those wonderful experiences that stems from one thing and one thing only -- the gratitude expressed for something given without any expectation of payment or return. That kind of experience only comes as a genuine expression of thanks. It would not have happened as part of an exchange or a business deal. This was an expression of value, one based on service to a common cause.

The Value Of Giving

I can say, without a doubt, that I have had more of these amazing experiences in the past four years than in my entire previous professional life. And I can say, without a doubt that this remarkable journey all began when I learned what it means to give.

Give More

You only reap rewards from giving when there is no expectation of anything in return.
Life experiences matter more than financial success.
Doing good with the expectation of reward is not actually "doing good.”


Bowdy is an amateur adventurer, a coffee sleepyhead, and a start-up rooter, with a penchant for classic-looking photos. At last count, he has visited some 60 countries, and is now living in Singapore. He's always in search of fascinating routines to exploit, within the edges of after-office hours and (un)limited holidays.

For collaboration ideas, email bowdywanders@gmail.com.


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