Have you ever heard this idiom?
Like a turtle on a fence post – you didn’t get there by yourself.
Does anyone really get where they’re at by themselves? I’m not sure.
What I do know is that I’ve had a long line of benefactors whose investment in my life of their time, knowledge, and resources have helped put me on my path.
It’s definitely a dopamine hit to acknowledge gratitude for my own selfish benefit. But I’ve found it’s even better to give back.
Sure, there’s a sort of self-interested-ness in helping others in need. I’m not sure it’s possible to voluntarily help someone without benefiting yourself. (Queue your best SBF Effective Altruism joke.)
But the benefit can go both ways.
Recently I reached out to a few major influences on me in high school to let them know how much I appreciated their impact on my life. The small act provided a sense of conviction that I can – and therefore should – do more to give back.
Which is something I’ve struggled with in recent years.
I’ve always aspired to [be able to] give back in a meaningful way. In a way that makes a monumental positive impact. Not to be showy. But to improve the world we inhabit.
Except I’ve struggled with the idea because I’m not at a point in my life or financial journey where I can donate libraries or schools or hospital wings. Maybe I never will be.
But it begs to question – what’s the threshold for generosity in order to make an impact?
I doubt it’s as high it sometimes seems to me. Maybe you can make a meaningful difference giving only a few bucks or a few hours of your time.
As I’ve been pondering this a memory resurfaced from high school.
We had a big convention out of state for a school organization. The school had a budget for only a fixed amount of students. So not everyone could go, unless they could raise the extra money to cover their way.
Somehow a few alumni caught wind of a couple of students who were going to miss out. So they cut checks to cover the costs.
No questions asked. No grand gestures. Just a clearly identified need within their capability, and a desire to fill it.
It probably didn’t require more than a few hundred bucks. But their generosity was timely and maximally impactful for the couple students it directly benefitted.
Indirectly, the story stuck with me. So that small gesture is still paying dividends.
Perhaps it’s easier to have a big impact than it often feels. Identify a need within your capabilities and fill it.