Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

When in Doubt, Be Generous

Well, today is the day where we wrap up this 10-part series. Have you enjoyed it? I sure hope so. I’ve had a blast sharing all this stuff with you.

When in Doubt, Be Generous

And if you haven’t checked out Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever, it has been a sort of unofficial sponsor of this series. It’s the best goal-setting program I’ve ever done, and this is my third year going through it.

I highly recommend it.

Click here to learn how to have your best year ever.

All right, on with the final lesson (you can listen to the audio via the player below):

Lesson 10: Be Generous

Do you know what the biggest secret to a successful life is?

Be generous.

It’s so simple and yet so easy to ignore. Here’s why:

We think that being generous is something we do once we get famous. And that’s not how it works at all.

A friend of mine just shared this:

Anytime I start getting scared of running out of something, I give away something. I have more than enough love, money, work, friendship, food, time, and energy to share. Always.

I agree. The secret to getting more is to give more. The most successful people I know are not hoarders. Quite the opposite, in fact. And here’s my belief on that:

Successful people are not generous because they’re successful. They’re successful because they’re generous.

Certainly, you run across your occasional Scrooges. But in my experience, those people are the exception, not the norm. That’s just what I’ve seen in my whole life, so I’m not speaking for everyone, obviously.

But that’s enough experience to convince me of an important lesson:

When in doubt, be generous.

When you have an opportunity to get versus give, go ahead and give.

Generosity as a growth strategy

I remember starting my blog back in 2010. It wasn’t growing, people weren’t reading, and I wasn’t having fun.

So I decided to shift something. Realizing I wasn’t doing my best work, I decided to do the opposite. I was afraid that if I gave away my best writing on my blog, no one would want to pay me for my best work. But that kind of scarcity thinking wasn’t really working. So I made one simple shift:

I decided to start giving away my best work for free.

Here’s what happens when you do that. Two things, actually:

1. People start to notice when you give your best work away for free.

Why? Because it’s generous. It makes people think, “She gave me all this for free? Wow.”

Not only that, they trust you even more, believing that paying you would bring even greater value.

Which brings me to point #2…

2. You do better work.

Look. You don’t have a ceiling on what you’re capable of. You can keep improving.

When I started giving away A+ content on my blog, I started writing better content. When the time came to write a book, I was a much better writer.

As you give your work away, your capacity to do better work increases. It has to.

So that’s the simple short lesson here today:

But wait a second, Jeff, don’t you say to “never work for free”?

That’s right. In Real Artists Don’t Starve, one of the rules is just that. Don’t work for free. But here’s the catch:

You need to always work for something, and that something doesn’t have to be money.

When you share a photo on Instagram, you are practicing in public. You are putting your work on display for people to see. You aren’t working for free. You’re earning people’s attention.

The same principle applies when you write on your blog for free. You’re working for email subscribers (or at least, you should be).

So, yes. Value your work. But always be generous with it. Give it away in the places where people will pay attention to you.

That doesn’t mean you have to give all your work away or that you can’t charge for what you do at the same time. It just means that when in doubt, it’s almost always a good rule to be generous.

Why?

Because, as my friend said, it sets you free from fear. It makes you a better person.

So, pay for that friend’s lunch today when you both awkwardly look at the check. Spend some that extra bit of time (in spite of feeling busy) with someone who is hurting. Give it all away.

I’ve always loved this Annie Dillard quote. It’s about writing, but really, I think it applies to any of us who have a gift to share with the world:

…spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

And when you feel fear telling you this is not a good idea, remember that’s what fear does. It tries to keep you quiet. Anything you hold on to eventually turns to dust.

So, what are you going to give away today? Share in the comments.


Remember to check out 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. Registration is currently open, but it won’t be for very long. Sign up here.

About Jeff Goins

I am the best-selling author of five books, including the national bestsellers The Art of Work and Real Artists Don't Starve. Each week, I send out a free newsletter with my best tips on writing, publishing, and helping your creative work succeed.

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