I had become a slave to money and a lifestyle that was making me miserable.
I would go into work 5 days a week, make my 150+ calls a day, close a few sales, and then leave the office, get drunk with my co-workers, go out on the weekends, and spend most of my money on booze, food, and rent.
The excess showed — I was about 15+ pounds overweight, I woke up feeling bleh every morning, I hardly worked out, and I ate garbage for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
My work served no purpose other than to enable me to continue living in Brooklyn, occasionally order expensive dinners and buy nice drinks, go on dates, and give me just enough motivation to not kill myself.
That started to shift one day, while at a Dunkin Donuts on a cold, winter morning — the glass fogging up from the inside — I saw a guy standing out front.
He was holding the door for people, and then shaking a cup in front of them.
Now, if you know anything about New York, you know that 99.9% of people — and that’s probably statistically accurate — won’t pay attention to you, especially if you want something from them.
In this case, he wanted money.
So, he held the door for me going in, then I ordered my coffee and on the way out, I reached into my pocket.
I only had $20s, so I decided to give him one — the look on his face was what I’d recall as astonishment.
I’m sure it quickly faded — $20 didn’t get you that far back then, but I’m sure it was better than the occasional change and $1 bills he’d get.
I remember how I felt afterward, and it was just this profound sense of freedom.
Instead of viewing money as a thing to just fill the void in an otherwise unfulfilling life it had become a tool.
A tool to give people what they wanted, too.
So, for the next month or so, I had a rule — every day, I’d walk around with a $5 bill in my pocket, and give it to the first person who asked.
I wouldn’t make any snap judgements on whether or not I felt like they needed it or about who they were or what they were doing but rather, if they asked, I would give it to them.
And that daily practice has continued many, many years later: randomly buying coffee for everyone behind me in line at coffee shops; gifting strangers $100 to either take for themselves or to give to others; donating $1000 to a Twitch stream who I’d been following for a while.
(I even made a video about that last one.)
And really, it freed me from this notion that money is just a thing to get you what you want.
And, really, that life is about getting what YOU want.
Because I started to realize that arguably the most profound means of getting what YOU want is, ironically, in helping others get what THEY want.
Money is nice in that it’s a universal currency that, for most people, will make a significant impact on their lives.
“Shut the fuck up and listen.”
A sales coach of mine back in the day once asked me, while on a call, what I should do when somebody starts talking.
I froze, kind of — and then I just went, “Well — well — uh, uh…”
“No,” he said. “When somebody starts talking, you just shut up and listen.”
In most every conversation you’ll ever have with a human, you’ll hear a few key phrases that should make your ears perk up:
- I want…
- I would love to…
- I’m starting to…
- I’m trying to…
- I need…
- I hope…
- One day…
Which means that someone you know or love is making a concerted effort to change something in their life, or work towards something, or create a way of being that’s new and different and uncomfortable.
And change is hard. Goals are hard.
But what if you could help them?
And it doesn’t have to be that complicated. You don’t need to help them push the boulder uphill entirely.
You just need to give them a boost.
Something that ideally takes just a few minutes.
- Telling them how extraordinarily proud of them you are for working towards something big and difficult. And how grateful you are. Maybe even in a short video.
- Reading something that they’ve put together recently and giving your feedback.
- Or just showing up to a thing or event they’ve hosted and saying, ‘Hi.’
These things seem small, but if you do enough of them eventually people start to think, “Hey, this person really supports me!”
Which honestly just feels good. It feels good to be part of and to help support a community, whatever it looks like.
Starting to notice.
The funny thing about all of this is that in most cases, nothing dramatic will shift.
People will still interact with you roughly the same; strangers will thank you for your kindness or generosity and move on with their lives; and acquaintances and colleagues in your network will probably be just as dodgy around the water cooler as they were before.
Here’s what will start to change — you’ll start to notice.
You’ll notice when somebody goes out of their way to do something kind for you; you’ll notice when a connection pans out and starts a working relationship (or romantic); or when somebody pulls through in helping support a project you’re working on and your vision.
And then you’ll start to notice that, hey, the things that I want to have happen are actually happening, whoa!
The time horizon on this, depending on the scope of your goals, might be months or years but really the goal is simply to create a daily means of incrementally stepping towards that thing.
And really, what you’re trying to accomplish here is freedom.
- Freedom from the notion that life is about tit for tat. i.e. You do me a solid, and I’ll do you one!
- Freedom from the idea that money is simply a means of putting a roof over my head and food on my table.
- Freedom from the scarcity mindset that often drives a lot of our decision-making.
If you can help other people do cool stuff then you start to realize that your life and your connections and the people who are around you and who support you just continue to grow and grow.
And that’s where the magic lies.
The outcome might not look exactly like you’d initially thought or dreamt, but the more freedom you find and create in your day-to-day, the more you’ll find that it was never really about the goal, anyway.
It was always about connection. And love.
And most importantly, freedom.
And with freedom, in some ways, you’ll already have everything you’ve ever wanted.