Giving Without the Expectation of Return

30 July 2013 · 22 comments

Well, it’s official. Yesterday I signed the contract to resume writing at Get Rich Slowly. I’ll be supplying a minimum of two articles per month, though I hope to write more. In return, I’ll be paid nothing.

To some, this seems crazy. To others, it seems like I’m being a sucker. To me, it sounds like fun. Often my favorite projects are the ones done solely for passion, the ones where there’s no expectation of an immediate payoff or return.

No Immediate Payoff

Last January, I had a phone conversation with Seth Godin. I was excited to pitch him on the idea joining us at World Domination Summit as a speaker this year.

“Why should I do this?” he asked.

I explained that it was a chance to share his message with 3000 receptive influencers. He was unconvinced. (In retrospect, I understand. Unlike many of our speakers, Seth already has a huge platform. While I still think he’d benefit from speaking at WDS, he’d get less from it than other speakers might.)

Seth had another objection. “You’re asking me to do this for free,” he said. “Would you do this for free?”

“Yes. I did it for free last year,” I said.

“And how much are you paid to help organize the conference?”

“Nothing,” I said.

“See, I don’t get that,” he said. “Why would you do that? I understand why Chris does it. There’s a payoff for him, even if it’s not financial. He’s gathering his tribe. But what’s in it for you?”

I had no answer. There’s not anything in WDS for me — except that I love the event, and it makes me happy to help connect amazing speakers with a receptive audience. I get true joy from facilitating collaboration. It sounds hokey, but it’s true.

Ultimately, Seth didn’t speak at WDS, and I get it. He believes free speaking gigs undermine his industry, making it more difficult for him to find quality paid speaking gigs. He needs a concrete return on his investment of time. That makes perfect sense.

But I’m still willing to work on WDS — and other projects — without the expectation that I’ll receive anything in return.

Note: Before this conversation, I didn’t really “get” Seth Godin. He sounds a little mercenary from this anecdote, but that’s not the impression I got at all. Instead, I was impressed from the first moment by how sharp his mind was and how insightful his questions were. We spent twenty minutes on the phone, and in those twenty minutes I learned a lot, especially about business. Since then, I’ve read as much as I can by him. I “get” Seth Godin now. He’s a smart, smart man.

Connecting and Collaborating

For much of the past two years, much of my work has been built around giving without the expectation of return.

As I’ve mentioned before, I meet with folks several times each week. I receive lots of email from readers and colleagues and complete strangers who want to have lunch or coffee. I agree to meet as many people as possible.

These meetings have become my real work. I spend an hour or two at a time talking about whatever my companion finds important. Last week over dinner, for instance, I discussed soccer and careers and ice cream with a fellow financial blogger. The next day, I met a reader for tea and we talked about games, about getting out of debt, and about starting a business. And the following day, I spoke with two folks by phone, exploring topics like fear and rejection and knowing when to quit.

I have no agenda for these meetings, and often nothing comes of them. But that’s okay. Other times, I get a great idea. Or my companion gets a great idea. And sometimes, I’m able to provide an introduction that could lead to a cool collaboration. (“Ramit Sethi, meet Jia Jiang. Jia Jiang, meet Ramit Sethi.”)

These meetings make me happy. I feel like I’m doing something good in the world. Plus, who knows? Maybe someday all of this connecting and collaborating will lead to the Next Big Thing.

Ulterior Motives

My return to Get Rich Slowly isn’t completely altruistic, I’ll confess. There’ll be no immediate monetary benefit, but I’m hopeful that there might be future positives that come from it.

Last week, Kim asked me to make a list of all the crazy plans that have been running through my head. “You have so many business ideas,” she said. “It’s hard to keep track of them all.”

I spent an hour jotting down the different things I’d like to do, like write another book (or three), start a new business, open a store that sells financial advice, and so on. When the list was finished, I was surprised to see that in order to pursue many of the ideas — especially those that matter most to me — it would helpful to write at Get Rich Slowly again. That sealed the deal. (Though, really, I was planning to return anyhow.)

Plus, I’ll admit: I’ve met a lot of cool financial bloggers over the past year (bloggers like Paula, Joe, MMM, and Kathleen), and I’m excited about interacting with them on a daily basis. Again, it’s a chance for connecting and collaborating. It sounds like fun!

I believe that a lot of good can come when you give without the expectation of return. You produce good in other people’s lives. Often, you receive unexpected benefits. But most of all, you make the world a better place.

Note: Some might wonder how this will affect my writing here at More Than Money. The answer is: It won’t. I’ll still be writing here about my favorite non-financial topics. I have lots more to say in coming months about overcoming fear, traveling the world, and discovering happiness in everyday life.

1 Holly@ClubThrifty July 30, 2013 at 09:00

This is some seriously awesome news and I’m sure the readers will be excited to hear it!

2 rubin pham July 30, 2013 at 09:52

jd:
i migrate to this blog because grs is not the same anymore.
they have a new article every day but the quality of the article has declined since you left.

3 Ryan July 30, 2013 at 10:49

Couldn’t agree with this more, I got much more value out of reading old articles by you than the newer posts. The posts are much less relevant being 24 with no debt, rental income and a high savings rate. My next goal is one of your previous ones: a Mini Cooper :)

4 Carla July 31, 2013 at 14:36

I completely agree.

5 Joel @ SaveOutsidetheBox July 30, 2013 at 11:03

I think that’s awesome JD. I look forward to reading your thoughts again over at Get Rich Slowly.

6 Tyler Tervooren July 30, 2013 at 13:43

That’s Seth for ya. You don’t always get what you want, but you’ll always get something valuable.

Fun to hear about the return to GRS. You are truly a writer in every sense of the word.

7 Kevin July 30, 2013 at 13:45

MMM has replaced GRS as my go-to financial blog. I’ve changed no doubt (so maybe GRS doesn’t speak to me as much), but so has the quality over there. I’m sure the new owners will be thrilled to have you back.

JD, are you planning to go to FinCon this year? It’s in my city, I thought about heading over to check it out.

8 Justin July 31, 2013 at 03:46

I agree with Kevin – I learned about MMM from J.D. and have relied on that site for “money info” over the past year. That said, I look forward to what J.D. has to add to GRS – nothing beats his ability to simplify complex topics, so his old posts are still quite useful and I find myself returning to the archives from time to time. I imagine his new posts will be top-notch!

9 John August 2, 2013 at 21:00

agree – MMM is my “gospel” for financial advise, whereas GRS was my starting point. regardless, kudos to J.D. for going back to what he loves – his posts were the best ones on GRS, so grateful he is going back. Just hope he continue to keep this blog going, as it is a great alternative to both MMM and GRS…

10 Meghan July 30, 2013 at 14:51

I will have to start reading GRS articles again from time to time! :)

11 bethh July 30, 2013 at 16:04

Oh seriously? I finally broke my GRS habit! I think each voice there has some strengths, but I prefer to feel like I know the writer and I can barely sort them out.

Oh well, I’ll check out your posts at least! I’m also mostly past the point of needing PF blogs (out of debt except for mortgage, in decent shape savings-wise, in touch with at least some of my Deeper Truths), but I like to read them so I stay mindful.

Well, I hope you have fun with it! I’m looking forward to seeing what you produce!

12 Martin July 30, 2013 at 23:08

People still read GRS? They should pay you for bringing some life back into their blog.

I’m surprised by the Seth conversation. I have read ALL of his books and he swears by giving for free and all that sort of good stuff. Linchpin is my favorite book of his.

Just curious, how much was he asking for?

13 jlcollinsnh July 31, 2013 at 07:10

Hi JD…

While I absolutely get and support the concept of giving without expectation — we have both donated our speaking fee from September’s upcoming Chautauqua — but I still don’t quite get your decision here. Perhaps you have more “writing energy” than I.

Mine is limited and between my blog (which I do without expectation) and my book in progress, it is already stretched thin.

Why not add those two extra posts here?

14 Kathleen July 31, 2013 at 07:23

I’m happy you’re writing, simply because it’s because of GRS that we met in the first place! It’s amazing to call “internet people” friends, isn’t it? Thanks for the link.

15 Veronica July 31, 2013 at 08:39

Hi JD,
Just found this author / entrepreneur that I thought you might enjoy: Vivek Wadhwa http://wadhwa.com/ . I found him via his LinkedIn article on the real trends in entrepreneurship versus the myths (this article is not yet on his website). He writes about immigration, ethics, technology, education (why a liberal arts education is just as important as engineering for innovation). Thanks so much for all that you do. I think “Paying back” makes us feel the reality of existence, that we are connected and interdependent – and when we live solely for financial payback we are isolating ourselves from a richly rewarding life.

16 Craig Anthony July 31, 2013 at 11:56

J.D.,

Regarding GRS, that is great news! Congratulations!

I had no idea that you did all the WDS work for free. That’s interesting and speaks volumes about you. I am impressed.

17 Del July 31, 2013 at 17:45

Hi J.D.

I’m really excited that you’ll be writing at GRS again! It hasn’t been the same without you.

Also, thanks for giving back without getting money in return.

18 Kareen August 1, 2013 at 17:53

As others, GRS is not the same w/o you – happy I popped into it tonight to see the good news – I’ll also be keeping up with this blog. Thanks, J.D.

19 Joe August 1, 2013 at 21:48

It’s building up good karma. The more positive you bring to everyone else, the more you will receive. I really believe it. Thanks for the mention. ;)

20 Erman August 3, 2013 at 03:49

Hello J.D.

Greetings from Antalya.

GRS has gone down hill since you left and it is great news that you will be back on writing. Maybe it is unfair to other contributors to say this but you were the heart and soul of that website and without your contribution, it was destined to go bust.

Erman

21 No tribe for me, thanks. August 7, 2013 at 10:40

As another in the comments here declares, I got something very valuable out of my one interaction with Seth Godin. I questioned something on his blog, as I often did when I used to read it, only this time I wrote in instead of just shaking my head. I got several replies, and they led in turn to more questions in my mind. Like why was someone as famous and surely very busy as he must be spending the better part of a morning on me? And why did so much about what he was writing to me not add up, regarding either substance or tone? The realizations I came to as a result of asking myself these things were worth the unpleasantness of the exchange. Thanks, Seth.

22 Jaime August 11, 2013 at 14:32

I can’t help but agree with Seth in not working for free. I think that working for free undermines your field. I really do, but some people don’t mind it, you seem to be one of those people. So whatever works for you man.

P.S. Yes I agree, I quit reading GRS when you left. What I loved about GRS was that there was a personal story behind it, instead one of being one those generic financial blogs, there was “heart” to GRS.

Since your back I’ll start reading it again.

Previous post:

Next post: