Paying it forward is good for business. It’s also the right thing to do. Yet we live in a society that rewards instant results. Not future possibilities.
What have you done for me lately? Does it contribute to the bottom line? Show me the money!
Yet paying it forward – at home and at work – it vital to our happiness. (It will also bring us greater long-term success, so long as we properly manage our expectations.)
We can start paying it forward three ways: STOP, LOOK, and ACT.
Step One: STOP
We must STOP keeping score. There is a lot of talk in our business communities about “building relationships” and “investing” in others before expecting results. We need to take it to the next level. If we stop keeping score, we give to others freely — without expecting anything in return.
It’s easy to invest in people who will reciprocate. “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” Yet if we’re not careful, unmet expectations will crush us. What happens when we don’t get scratched back?
If we give without expecting in return, we’re blessed by giving, not receiving. In fact, we should regularly give to people who aren’t in a position to reciprocate.
Every once in awhile, we’ll be caught by surprise when the people we least expect are in a position of influence. When they become our advocates, they will know our initial investment was sincere. Trust-based relationships don’t keep score.
Step Two: LOOK
LOOK around at the people you admire. Do they give without strings attached? Do they “pay it forward” because it’s the right thing to do?
In Powered By Happy, Executive Beth Thomas encourages us to make a list of the ways we can make other people happy. As I read her words, it dawned on me. God is the ultimate Master of paying it forward. When Jesus died on a cross, he was doing it for me without any guarantee of my response. I wasn’t even born yet!
Jesus provides an incredible role model. His selflessness inspires us to give without strings attached – to extend grace to others, even when they don’t “deserve” a favor. If God can “pay it forward” centuries before my birth, I too can take a long-term view of people.
Step Three: ACT
Paying it forward actually works. But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself. Pick something you know you can do – but something that will challenge your natural instincts and test your limits.
For example, I really hate sitting in traffic. When I take my 6th-grader to school, there are a line of cars in the “drop off” a mile long. Inevitably, instead of getting at the back of the line, some parent always cuts in front of me. I find this so annoying! For months, I would try to inch up as far as possible to the car in front of me – to give the signal that there is no way you are pulling out in front of me! Then, one morning, I decided to let someone cut.
Nick yelled, “Mom, what are you doing! This guy is cutting in front of you.”
I gave the other car a friendly wave, and he waved back. It was exhilarating.
Granted, it was only a baby step. But baby steps count.
Are you ready to STOP keeping score?
When you LOOK for role models, who pays it forward best?
How can you take a simple step and ACT?