“When I give I give myself.” – Walt Whitman (“Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass)
When people think about getting rich, there are usually two broadly different ways they go about it. Some people try to get rich by taking from others. They figure there is a limited amount of wealth in the world; to get more of it, they have to take it from someone else.
Other people see the world as infinitely expanding. They believe that wealth — in all its forms — can expand indefinitely. These people acquire wealth by giving rather than receiving. Their first thought in any transaction is “How will this benefit the other person?”
The takers think the givers are foolish. But they are wrong.
Wealth that is acquired by taking seems the shorter path, but it is deceptively short. It is a path that narrows and steepens as it proceeds. When you choose the “easy-money” path, you choose a life in which the wealth you acquire is as hard to earn in the 70th year as it was in the first.
Wealth that is acquired by giving begins with a steep and narrow ascent that then levels and widens and ends in a wide and downwardly sloping meadow. When you choose the path of giving, wealth comes a bit later — but when it comes, it comes easily and abundantly.
I have acquired wealth by taking. Seduced by the lure of easy money, I’ve created businesses primarily to put money in my pocket rather than create value for my customers. But I’ve also started businesses primarily to provide value — and I’ve discovered that those businesses, when they work, tend to work better.
The quick-money option requires less work and offers more rewards — in the beginning — so it is hard to resist.
But when you yield to it and run a business that essentially takes advantage of people, you end up regretting it. Either you get into trouble with authorities or you get outed by the press or your customers figure out what you are doing and abandon you or you gradually become disgusted with your own duplicity. You end up regretting it, or you end up without any feeling whatsoever.
If you give, you shall receive. The giving businessperson understands that wealth comes to him as a consequence of his giving wealth to others. He understands this as a universal principle, because he has seen its truth manifested a thousand times in other, less materialistic, aspects of life.
The joy of love, he has seen, comes to him when he loves others. (This is most apparent in his relationships with his children, but he can also see it whenever he commits an act of spontaneous love on others.) Loyalty comes not from demanding loyalty from others but from providing it. He becomes knowledgeable faster when he teaches than when he studies. These life patterns repeat themselves endlessly. Eventually, one recognizes the general relationship.
Deepak Chopra says, “If you want joy, give joy to others; if you want love, learn to give love; if you want attention and appreciation, learn to give attention and appreciation; if you want material affluence, learn to help others become materially affluent.”
Chopra recommends three ways to apply the Law of Giving:
1. Whenever you encounter someone, give him a gift.
2. Appreciate the gifts that are given to you.
3. Keep wealth circulating by “giving and receiving life’s most precious gifts: caring, affection, appreciation, and love.”
Here’s how to do that in your business life:
1. With your customers: Make sure that every transaction is one that is fundamentally about giving them value. Make sure that value is given not only materially but spiritually as well. Also: Be grateful for their business.
2. With your employees: Don’t worry too much about what you can get from them but rather what you can give them that will help them give value to your customers. Also: Be grateful for their good work.
3. With your colleagues and competitors: Never try to gain an advantage over them. Always try to leave them better off than when you met them. Also: Be grateful for the value they give you.