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April 4, 1997

Go Deep, Give Much: The Secret is Investing in Things That Matter

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“No one has ever become poor by giving”
Anne Frank

Who do you want to see flourish? What cause or mission has a gravitational pull for you?
It sounds like a simple question. At first glance, it may even seem rather vague and unimportant. After all, if you and I were honest, more often than not our answer would be “nobody.” We would say, “I’m too busy to have energy for anyone but me.” That might sound harsh, but it’s probably true.
Changing how I answered that question has improved my life in profound ways.
Early on in my life, most of what I did was for me. To get one step ahead. To go one mile further. To climb one more rung on the ladder of success. Things changed for me, though, when I truly began to understand the value of people.
We live in a “leverage” happy society. Relationships aren’t just relationships, they’re platforms for leverage and tools for networking. Even networking itself has lost much of its relational quality. When all we want to do is hopscotch from one relationship to the next, the relationships themselves tend to matter very little. The problem here is self-evident. People should not be leveraged. People are not objects to be “used.” People are not stepping-stones to our next success story.
People matter. They shape our lives. They shape our world. They are our culture. When we start dehumanizing people, using them as disposable game pieces in our great connect-the-dot career game, we diminish not only the individuals, but our culture as well.
Listen to David Brook on this matter. “I’ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself in situations in which you lose self – consciousness and become fused with other people, experiences, or tasks. It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, or when an artist or craftsman becomes one with the brush or the tool. It happens sometimes while you’re playing sports, or listening to music or lost in a story, or to some people when the feel enveloped by God’s love. And it happens most when we connect with other people. I’ve come to think that happiness isn’t really produced by conscious accomplishments. Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year .”

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