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

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Overcoming Self (Not Your Self Their Self)

catpadI’ve been addressing various factors over the last couple weeks that prevent people from performing acts of service, things that keep us from having a giving attitude.

One obvious one that I never mentioned is selfishness.

Sure there are some people that are genuinely selfish who wouldn’t lift a finger to help someone in need because they just don’t care about their fellow man. I believe those people are rare; and sociopaths. But there are some lesser degrees of selfish with a lower case “s” that may apply to quite a few folks.

For example, what about people suffering from extreme shyness? We tend to sympathize with those people. At least I do because I was painfully shy growing up. But if it becomes paralyzing to the point that you are too shy to ask the person next to you if they would like to share your umbrella, then you no longer have any sympathy from me. Your shyness is now causing hardship on people around you. If you are too soft-spoken and self-conscious that you can’t get someone’s attention and tell them they are standing in the wrong line, are waiting at the wrong bus stop, or are about to inject themselves with something that is not their insulin, that’s a problem.

The problem with self-consciousness is you are focusing all your attention on your self. So yes, being shy is a form of selfishness.

Another common form of selfishness is just utter obliviousness. A few months ago I was filming an episode of Hawaii 5-0 (it was Billy’s funeral, look for me at the wake during the reruns). When working as a background actor, you spend about 90% of your time waiting. So with about fifty of us all crammed into a holding area a friendly red-headed actress sat down next to me and said, “So, you’re not on your phone, what would you like to talk about?” I laughed because… well, everyone was staring at their phones.

Society has been focusing more and more inwards. Last week I made a brief list of things that fill up our lives. It’s a vaguely generational list where the baby boomers had their clubs and sports leagues, generation x had their TV, and generation Y has their internet games and smartphones. Notice how each generation has gotten less and less social? Your parents probably ate meals together and had conversations. My generation sat in front of the television during meals and talked during commercials. Today kids have their own individual screens and communicate primarily in chat windows.

It’s not that younger generations are less kindhearted, they are just less trained to look up and out. Most young people would gladly help someone out if they could do it by tweet.

I believe that people are good and kind. I believe that people will perform acts of kindness and service more often if we can shake them out of their iSelf.

So that is the goal of our non-profit organization when we launch. Create a culture of giving and serving by helping people to overcome their fear of lack of reciprocity, their reluctance to receive a blessing because they can’t reciprocate back, their laziness, and their self-centeredness. That seems like a pretty full plate.

How would you tackle some of these issues?


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.