“To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”

“To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”

Maria Popova, Bulgarian-born, American-based essayist, and poet

Image from Unsplash by Suzana Ruttkay

During the holiday season, many people experience the ritual of gift exchanges in their personal and professional communities.

These days, more and more of us let our fingers do the shopping on our phones and other devices to find that perfect gift without breaking a sweat.

Who are the people in your life that would benefit most from greater understanding and personal connection?

How can you show greater interest, listen more deeply, and more fully honor their thoughts and feelings in your upcoming interactions.


In the coming weeks, how will you be extra generous by giving the most personalized gift of your understanding to those you care about most?

“A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.”

“A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.”

—Chinese Proverb

Image from Unsplash by Elizabeth Dalling

Most evenings my wife Wendy and I watch the ABC nightly news with David Muir to get our update on world events. The final segment, America Strong, is usually uplifting, with selected individuals or groups demonstrating their compassion, empathy, and generosity to others in their communities.

A wonderful result of these examples of giving is how happy and satisfied all parties are through these exchanges.


Who are the most generous givers in your communities? How can and will you acknowledge and give a part of your self back to these special folks. Don’t be surprised if doing so leaves behind a sweet, satisfying feeling in you.


“One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.”

“One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.”

—Rick Godwin, American Pastor

Image from Unsplash by NeOBRAND

We all know in our heads and even in our hearts that change is inevitable. The law of impermanence is pretty evident, yet our need for control has us always swimming upstream against the currents of life.

What is there to lose? is a question worth exploring deeply. It is this real or perceived loss that troubles us most. The Serenity Prayer, originally written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1932, can be helpful to navigate such waters. The modern version reads:

God grant me the Serenity to accept
the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things
I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference


Where and how can a shift of mindset to a positive, opportunistic view of change help you explore and realize previously invisible gains that await you?

“Taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking care of others. The healthier the tree, the better the fruit it can offer.”

“Taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking care of others. The healthier the tree, the better the fruit it can offer.”

—Author Unknown

Image from Unsplash by Josh Hild

In his book, Give and Take, Adam Grant demonstrates that the Givers of the world are usually more successful and happier than Takers and Matchers.

He makes a critical distinction between the Selfless Giver and what he calls the Other-ish Giver.

His research proves that although very admirable, the Selfless Giver – who sacrifices themselves for others – comes up short on both success and life satisfaction.

It turns out that putting ones own mask on before assisting others is critical to supporting those we most wish to serve in our personal and professional communities.


Where in your life can and will you commit to taking far better care of yourself so that others you support can more abundantly share the sweet result of your generosity?

“The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others.”

“The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others.”

—Homer, ancient Greek author of The Iliad and the Odyssey

Image from Unsplash by Kate Townsend

How often do you go out to eat? How often are your restaurant meals served by a waitperson?

What is your normal tip percentage for OK, good, or exceptional service?

In our early dating years, my wife Wendy was a waitress at a Friendly Restaurant outside of Philadelphia. Given this experience, she has always had a special place in her heart for kindhearted and caring servers who bring their authentic selves to their role, to make our dining experience special.

During our 40th anniversary dinner, she shared the story of a young waiter who really impressed her with his authenticity and character. Beyond her usual substantial tip, she handed him an extra 25 dollars to more fully acknowledge her delight in his service. This brought on a flood of tear from the young man.


Where might your current and future small charitable acts be even more precious to others than you realize? Where might an even more generous heart make a significant difference in your world today?

Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash

“Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.”

—Adam Grant, in Give and Take

How familiar are you with the difference between a finite and infinite game?

In his book, Finite and Infinite Games, author James P. Carse describes finite games – such as sports – as activities in which participants obey rules, recognize boundaries, and announce winners and losers.

Infinite games, on the other hand, can have known and unknown players, and a key objective is having the will and resources to keep the game going.

To what degree do you play the long game by being a giver within your various communities? If all people stopped keeping score and playing only to win, how might the world be a far kinder and richly abundant place?


Consider watching Simon Sinek’s video The Infinite Game, to explore how this concept might apply to your personal and professional worlds.

Also consider reading Sinek’s article titled, The Finite and Infinite Game in Work and Life

It doesn’t make any sense

“It doesn’t make any sense to make a key and then run around looking for a lock to open.”

—Seth Godin, American Author

Image of a hand holding a single key

Image from Unsplash by CMDR Shane

The Giving Pledge is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back. You can learn more about this remarkable commitment to philanthropy and the causes they support by visiting givingpledge.org.

If you happen to not currently be on the list of the ultra-wealthy, I suggest you consider the Impact Pledge. There, we can all participate in a highly specific project by publicly committing our resources – especially time and energy – to a worthy mission to better our world. In such a way we can all participate in the design of a “key” solution that opens the doors of our most daunting local and world issues.


Consider visiting the Impact Pledge site to see how you might become a critical key to bettering our world.

We are mere journeymen

“We are mere journeymen, planting seeds for someone else to harvest.”

—Wallace Thurman, 20th Century African-American Novelist

Image of two men in a wheat field

Image from Unsplash by Warren Wong

For virtually all people alive today, the standard of living and the quality of life has improved exponentially over the past few decades, and particularly in the last two centuries.

If you have ever interviewed your parents, grandparents, or even looked back over your own life, things have improved in countless ways.

Consider the idea that all the people known and unknown to you have been farmers planting and cultivating the seeds we all get to harvest each day.


Who in your world can and will you thank and acknowledge for all the abundance we experience today?

Where and how are you currently planting the seeds of a better world to benefit the lives of other’s for future generations?

Life is an echo. What you give, you get

“Life is an echo. What you give, you get.”

—Author Unknown

Image of Echo Dot 3

Image of Echo Dot 3 from Amazon.com

If you keep up with technology, you know that Amazon recently launched the third generation of the Echo Dot. For less than $50.00, we can all tap into the virtually unlimited collective knowledge of mankind.

A frequently cited source of answers to our inquiries is Wikipedia – the free online encyclopedia created and edited by volunteers around the world. It is because of these individual and collective contributions that we all reap the benefit/echoes of others throughout the world.


What are the things in life you most desire? How would more generously sharing these resources echo back to you even more of what you seek?

You can’t pour from an empty cup

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”

—Author Unknown

Image of hands holding a coffee cup

Image from Unsplash by Sabri Tuzcu

In his book, Give and Take, author Adam Grant points out that in many situations, the givers of the world are more successful and fulfilled.

There is, however, a particular exception to his observation. He makes a clear distinction between two types of givers, which he calls “Selfless,” and “Otherish.”

A critical difference between the two is that Selfless givers give to the point of being an empty cup, while Otherish givers put on their own oxygen mask before assisting others.


Where in your life are you running on or near empty?

What Otherish strategies can you use to retain some reserves for yourself, so that you can continue your generous and contributory efforts?