A few weeks ago I was eating lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in downtown Manhattan. Seated next to me were two very well-dressed men in their late 50’s/early 60’s who were having a conversation about their recent retirements. Given that seating in New York restaurants is ridiculously tight and I was dining alone, I heard most of their talk.
One of them asked the other “so what are you going to do now”? The other sat for a moment contemplating, then looked up and said questioningly: “Give back”? They both hooted in laughter at the response, and began perfunctorily yapping about the stock market, recent travels, and other typical conversation.
The dialogue bothered me ever since hearing it. It is so common in our society for people to work their whole lives with the primary goals of making money and becoming “successful”, and then retiring to a life of leisure where they can potentially “give something back”.
I am not saying there is something wrong with working hard, creating wealth, and making a success of yourself. But when the end result of 30 or 40 years in a profession implies: “OK, now I am ready to show compassion outside the realm of my family, friends and immediate situations” then something is fundamentally off.
I say we should seek to have it all: A successful, abundance-filled life in conjunction with a caring attitude about the people and world at large! With this said, here are 5 excellent ways you can begin your giving ways well before retirement:
Become Conscious of Your Desire to Help Others
I am aware that I painted a pretty negative picture of the two gentlemen I sat next to at lunch. For all I know both these men spent their entire professional lives helping other people. However, the tiny slice of conversation I heard extrapolated a bigger issue in my mind, and I wonder how many people in the world wake up each morning and say to themselves: “what can I do to help today” or “how can I serve today”. I imagine that a much more significant number of people think “what can I do to get ahead today” when they wake.
But when we are able to step outside our socially conditioned roles, the more basic human traits shine through: to help, to give and to love. If you go deep enough, you will remember these are the most important qualities to have. So get out there NOW, even while you are ensconsed
in your “life”, and become a giver.
Recently I became aware that 60% of the world’s population is under the age of 25 (isn’t that amazing)! Unfortunately, many of the problems our society has created will fall on the leaders of tomorrow. Ask yourself: what can you do to help cultivate exceptional human beings who will make wise decisions in the future? If you have kids, raising them well and providing love is obviously the #1 thing you can do. But I challenge you to think outside the box and devise a few ways you can help make a difference to children beyond the realm of your own home!
Become a Mentor
Another great way to give back is to educate. What are your best skills, and how did you become a success? There are people who want to know and can benefit from your expertise. And there are a myriad of ways you can do this; perhaps you can use your contacts within your profession and let it be known that you want to help others. Maybe you can give a class. Nowadays you can mentor people online. Either way, teaching your most valued skills for the betterment of others is a great way to give back. And do it while your in your prime!
Volunteer Your Excess Funds
Do you remember the end of Schindler’s List when Schindler (Liam Neison) had a breakdown when he realized that he could have done so much more to save people? Even though he was a hero, the perspective of time made him realize that life will always be infinitely more valuable than possessions. So yes, I am suggesting to give money to groups, charities and individuals that represent wonderful causes. I love the fact that there are so many high level individuals across the globe giving away their fortunes to make the world a better place. It is awesome, and we should all follow their lead. Why wait until later? Start giving NOW!
Volunteer Your Time
Choose a few causes that you care genuinely about, and become involved. There are hundreds of millions of people in the world who are hungry, poor and need some form of help…and your actions will make a difference. The great thing about volunteering is that there are no obligations: you can do it on your time, give only what you can (although you may be compelled to start giving more once you feel the benefits), and no one will debunk you for your effort. Don’t be like the men in the restaurant and wait, do it now!
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