When I started wearing a nametag everyday, I wasn’t doing it to get attention.
I was doing it to give myself away.
Of course, I didn’t realize that until eleven years into it.
But now, as I look back on the journey, it occurs to me how powerful this idea is.
When you give yourself away, you make people glow.
When you give yourself away, you become a voice worth listening to.
When you give yourself away, you widen the boundaries of your being.
Giving yourself away isn’t what you think.
It’s not about whoring yourself out and violating your own boundaries.
It’s not about becoming a one-woman welcome mat for everyone you meet.
It’s not about creating a sense of indebtedness and social pressure to reciprocate.
Giving yourself away is about bringing your humanity to the moment.
Whether you’re a leader, entrepreneur, service provider or professional parent, here’s a collection of ideas on how to make it work in your world:1. Check your motivation. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve – I wear my humanity on my chest. That’s the other reality about the nametag: I’m not doing it to make money – I’m doing it to make a point. In retrospect, had I been monetarily focused from the get go, I think the intention would have stained the mission, and the idea never would have lasted.
That’s the keeper: If the only reason you give yourself away is to send a signal to the world that you did it, it’s probably not worth doing. If the only reason you give yourself away is to trick people into congratulating you on your selflessness, it’s probably not worth doing. And if the only reason you give yourself away is because you know it looks good on your resume, it’s probably not worth doing.
These types of motivations smack of self-righteousness and spoil the spirit of the process. My suggestion: Take the time to accurately define why you want to give yourself away. Do it for the right reasons. Otherwise your recipients are likely to return to sender. What motivation drives the desire to give yourself away?
2. The heart has its own measuring scale. If the audio track of your attitude is that you’re nothing but a big bucket of suck, you will stall, choke it all back, and contribute nothing. But, if you truly believe – at a cellular level – that you’re throbbing with treasure, what you give away will matter.
Try this: Instead of enrolling yourself in stagnation, instead of dwindling indecisively for an eternity, just try saying, “Here.” Try sharing what you love. You’ll find that the reservoir of giving comes from the heart – not the wallet. And the best part is: It never runs dry.
As Lewis Hyde wrote in The Gift, “Your gift is not fully yours until it is given away.”
Remember: It’s impossible to give yourself away if you don’t believe that you are a gift to be given. Remove the bars to your heart. And deliver the package of you to the world. What are the mental obstacles to believing that giving yourself away is valuable to people?
3. Step back from center stage. Approachability isn’t about being the life of the party – it’s about bringing other people to life at the party. It’s not about getting people to fall in love with you – it’s about helping them fall in love with themselves. And it’s not about who you know – it’s about whose life is better because they know you.
That’s the attitude that enables you to give yourself away. And if you want to multiply that mindset into the world, here’s my suggestion: Stop being a conversational narcissist. At your next meeting, practice a little restraint. Accept that your hand doesn’t have to shoot up every time.
Instead, staple your tongue to the roof of your mouth and let other people shine. Try this: Keep your eyes out for people who haven’t contributed in a while. Then, when the time feels right, say: “Hey Tony? Didn’t you say you had a great method for handling that problem?”
Remember: Not answering doesn’t make you less smart – it makes you more generous Who was the last person you turned into a Christmas tree?
4. You can’t choreograph giving. Giving yourself away isn’t a corporate initiative – it’s a constitutional ingredient. It’s something you do daily because you’ve made the decision that giving is important to you.
For example, in Judaism, tzedakah is the commandment to give. But it’s not something you practice because you’re asked. Or because you feel guilty. Or because it dissolves your earthly sins by the time you meet your maker.
It’s less of a thing you do and more of a thing you are.
That’s the secret: Being less intentional about the process. Because the people who truly embody tzedakah are the ones who give themselves away through loving impulses – not calculated actions. This assures that giving yourself away is the incidental consequence of an intentional commitment, and not something you do just because you have an audience.
Remember: The best way to give yourself away is to give up your addiction to controlling the giving process. What is your daily gift to the world?
REMEMBER: Giving yourself away may arouse suspicion.
People will think you’re crazy. Or too generous. Or too naïve.
But you can’t silence your own voice for fear of being misunderstood.
Emerson once said, “The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
Maybe it’s about time you delivered it.
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
“I usually refuse to pay for mentoring. But after Scott’s first brain rental session, the fact that I had paid something to be working with him left my mind – as far as I was concerned, the value of that (and subsequent) exchange of wisdom and knowledge, far outweighed any payment.”
–Gilly Johnson The Australian Mentoring Center
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