15 Minutes

Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.


To Serve Man (Not a Cookbook)

ImageHow can we cultivate a culture of giving? A culture of serving? I’ll let you know up front that I don’t have any definitive answers, so hopefully this will spark a two-way conversation. Think of this post as a public brainstorming session.

The secret of successful leadership is a willingness to serve.
The secret of a successful marriage is to try to out-serve your spouse.
The secret of a successful company is exceptional service.
The secret of a successful tennis player is a great serve.

Actually, I guess none of those things are really secrets. They are commonly taught at marriage seminars, leaderships seminars, sales seminars and tennis camp. I would also contend that any society or group or nation would be improved if everyone was taught to give and serve more often.

So how does one create a culture of serving? Giving and serving not just our spouses and customers, but to everyone that we see on a daily basis?

Let me formulate one obstruction and consider if you agree. Our society is based on the idea of reciprocity, fairness, equivocation. It’s how our commerce works and somehow that idea has bled into our notion of how interpersonal relationships are also supposed to work. Which is why we will easily perform a kindness or favor for a friend, relative our co-worker, but might be hesitant to do the same for a stranger. After all, if you never see that person again, when will they ever be able to do you a favor back?

Do you agree with that summation? (Take a moment)

I think there are some people that think that way, but I think it is actually a minority. I think most of us don’t mind doing a small favor for a stranger. After all we’re good people. I think the real hindrance in these random acts of kindness is on the part of the receiver. After all, if someone we don’t know and don’t plan to ever see again does us a favor, how will we be able to repay them? We find ourselves at a deficit, we’ve been out-served, we have red in our ledger. So because of this, when that stranger offers us a helping hand, we too often say, “no, thank you.”

I think the greater hindrance to creating a society of givers lies more in our reluctance to take than to give.

Do you agree with THAT summation?

Like I said, I don’t have any definitive answers in this post.

ImageSome friends of mine are in the process of launching a non-profit organization. Our mission is to spread the spirit of Aloha, which I define as the spirit of giving, sharing, and serving. (Sidebar: It’s vital to define Aloha whenever you use it in a sentence since Aloha has about seventy definitions including “hello” and “goodbye.” The spirit of Aloha could easily mean slamming a door in someone’s face. End sidebar).

It’ll probably be a few months before we’re ready to launch the website and start with the promotions and such; and I will no doubt inundate you with more information than you could possibly want at that time.

In the meantime, if anyone has any definitive answers, brilliant ideas or amazing epiphanies about the question “how do you create a culture of giving and serving?” I would love to hear them. Heck, I’ll even take a subdued notion.



How Do You Like Them Tomatoes?

When I was in elementary school we had a garden (interesting side note, no matter what you plant in Hawaii you will yield mostly eggplant). My dad took care of it and I, being a kid, I carefully avoided it. From high school until today I’ve only lived in a town house with no lawn space, and have had no particular interest in potted plants so I’ve never grown anything.

A few years back I had the urge to start an herb garden (when I had a turkey and basil leaf sandwich that was really good). And since I haven’t had a normal 9 to 5 job in quite a while, a few months ago I thought I’d try it out. I got some plastic trays, some soil, some seeds and started flexing my farming muscles.

Basil is easy to grow, so those seeds sprouted quickly. Then I decided that fresh basil tastes gross and let them die.

I planted some Rosemary seeds, most of which never broke the soil surface. When one of them finally did I was overjoyed. My next discovery was that a kitten will eat a newly sprouted Rosemary plant right down to the roots.

That brings us to today. Check out my tomato plant:

Not bad for someone that never grew anything in his life. When I actually get my first tomato, expect a five-part blog detailing the process from harvest to sandwich-eating.

Why am I rambling about my mini-garden? Here, I’ll quote from David Schwartz in The Magic of Thinking Big.

Most of us have friends who grow things for a hobby. And we’ve all heard them say something like “It’s exciting to watch those plants grow.”

I’ve read this book several times before but glossed over that section because I never had any personal experience with it. In this particular season of my life though, it was pertinent to me so it jumped out at me.

Now let’s take a look at the next paragraph (of the book and my blog)

To be sure, it is thrilling to watch what can happen when men cooperate with nature. But it is not one-tenth as fascinating as watching yourself respond to your own carefully administered thought management program. It’s fun to feel yourself growing more confident, more effective, more successful day-by-day, month-by-month.

Here are my insights taken from my recent experiences in farming and reading:

  • First, Dr. Schwartz sums up nicely the reason that I am so passionate about personal growth. It’s fun. It’s challenging. And when you are growing yourself, it is significantly more rewarding than having a fresh tomato. (See my past blog on Always Choose Growth)
  • Second, you should always re-read books in your success library. Certain phrases and principles will speak to you more strongly in different phases of your own life. Compare what you highlight in a book today to what “college-You” highlighted the first time you read it. It’s a great yardstick to see how much you’ve grown.
  • Third, great things come from tiny seeds (I mean, just look at that photo! That plant is like 5 cats tall!) Metaphorically, words are seeds. Ideas are seeds. Thoughts are seeds. My life’s ambition is to spend it planting good seed and yielding a great harvest in the form of adding value to people’s lives.
  • Fourth, good seed is timeless. This book was written in 1959, but the wisdom in it is as valuable today as it was then. So is the wisdom found in the Bible. Seeds discovered in Egyptian tombs were found to still be viable after thousands of years. The same is true for principles of success. Policies change. Techniques change. Popularity is fickle. Principles endure.

These points seem a bit scattered to me, so let me try to bring them all into focus with a few questions:

Do you have principles in your life that you value? Of course, everyone does.

What are you doing to reinforce those principles in your life? In your child’s life?

What good seeds can you plant now to yield a great harvest in the future?


Compulsory Farm Service

There are some people that believe that we should require compulsory military service in the U.S. before you can become a citizen. While I admire the men and women of our armed forces past and present, and I would not hesitate to serve myself if it were required of me, I’ve always felt that a good alternative would be to require citizens to work on a farm for two years.

First, because farmers are some of the hardest working people in the world (read this Hillbilly’s Letter Home from the Army). And second, because it would help to reintroduce some laws of nature that many people raised in the Age of the Internet have never learned: The Laws of the Harvest.

I know the concept of a harvest may need to be explained to the youngsters out there. Here are some general principles behind farming.

1. When you plant corn in the ground, you receive back corn. In other words, you get back, what you put out. This is known as the Law of Reciprocity.

This is a practically universal teaching of every world religion. The golden rule, you reap what you sow, what comes around goes around, karma is a mafia princess (paraphrased). From a purely selfish standpoint, it would be a good idea not to be a jerk. People will treat you like a jerk. If you speak in a way that is energetic, empowering, and optimistic you will live a life that is full of energy, power, and optimism. It’s better to speak words of honey not of bile in case you need to eat those words later.

2. You receive more corn out of the ground, than you plant into the ground. Or, you get back more of what you put in. This is the Law of Increasing Returns.

How viable would our system of agriculture be if for every ear of corn you planted, you received back exactly one ear of corn. Why bother planting it? Just eat the one you have. Fortunately, the earth was designed to provide abundantly. A single kernel of corn has the potential to yield hundreds of millions of ears of corn.

And so does a single act of kindness. Or a single harsh statement. Or a single lie. Or a single blessing. Our words and actions when sown out in the world have the power to multiply and increase in power a thousandfold. Being a little bit of a jerk can sometimes result in you being run over by a busload of jerks.

3. Once you plant the corn, you need to wait for it to grow. You cannot keep digging up your kernels to check on them. You plant seeds, you water them, but you also must wait for nature to allow them to develop a life of it’s own. This is The Law of Delayed Gratification.

You can’t expect to reap rewards without putting out seeds of effort first. That would be like expecting your fireplace to provide you heat before you give it wood. It doesn’t work with inanimate objects and it doesn’t work with people either. Try telling your boss that you will work harder after he gives you a raise.

Also, we need to understand that a harvest completes on its own schedule, not on ours. I may have already spent some time complaining about the microwave mentality that people have these days. But anything worthwhile requires nurturing. Raising children, forming a relationship, developing a talent. Be willing to put forth the effort, even if you don’t see the results immediately. Have faith, that the laws of nature will not make an exception just for you.

These are basic lessons about life and nature, sorely missing in today’s education standards, all because of our lack of agrarian society. (Full disclosure: I’ve never worked on a farm and probably couldn’t handle the physical labor, but the philosophy of the farm I am totally down with).

What other laws of man and nature can be learned on a farm?