Last week I wrote a post about how money can buy happiness – and decided to do a ‘Pay-It-Forward’ exercise with my team – this is from that original post:
“Tomorrow morning I’m handing each one of my employees a $100 bill and asking them to go out into the world at some point their day and give it away – randomly – or not randomly – to someone other than themselves. $100 isn’t a giant amount for my staff – but I’m sure it will have a big meaning to someone else – I think some of the people on my team will feel good about helping someone out – about surprising them and making their day/week/month. My hope is they’ll come back with a smile and a story. My hope is they’ll feel a little better about their day. My hope is they’ll feel happy. My hope is – money can buy happiness.”
So, this went down – a stack of $100 bills and we all went off to find who we thought needed that $100 the most. First, I want to share some learning from this activity:
- I gave very few rules – one was that they had to ‘give’ the money away that day, by midnight – almost everyone wished they had more time.
- Apparently when you go to give out money – you do a lot of stalking! You want to make sure the receiver deserves it so you follow them around for like 10 minutes which tells you all you need to know about a person!
- When given the chance to help – it’s hard to find someone to help! In any random day you see all kinds of people to help – someone hands you cash and says ‘Go Help’ and they all disappear…or do they!? It seems when you actually have the resources to help – you do more ‘Profiling’ and become much more selective about who is actually needy! I say this with all positive intent – my team wanted to help out the ‘most’ deserving person – and you find out it’s hard to tell degrees of deserving apart!
- In this exercise many on my team set very high expectations for the event of giving – reality is you probably don’t change someone’s life with $100 – but you surprise a lot of people!
- Some people on the receiving end – are very cynical! (We actually had people say: “So, what do I have to do for this”; “Do I have to fill out a survey”; “What church are you from”, etc. Just take the damn money! I was trying to be nice! Others are very gracious.
- You can find out a ton about what is important to your team, by listening to how and what they wanted to help others!
We had plenty of hugs, some crying, some cheers and a whole bunch of smiles! We had people help out animals, babies, old people, young people, poor people, families, teens, schools, bartenders, servers and entrepreneurs. I had one team member who wanted to share our experience and asked the person he gave his $100 to keep $25 and pass the rest on with the same instructions – 4 total people getting a nice smile in their day. I had many team members stalk local grocery stores wanting to help others pay for their groceries – to make their week a little easier – these stories were the funniest hearing how they stalked the aisles and ‘profiled’ the neediness of the individuals. We heard from teammates who seemed to have a hard time giving the money away at every turn – some people, it would seem, are to proud to accept a simple gift of help (not something you see everyday in today’s world).
One big learning my team took away from this was that quite possibly – it would have been more rewarding if it was their own personal money – and not the companies money (I said I be willing to take it out of their check! 😉 ) But many decided the experience was so rewarding they wanted to do it on their own – and share the experience with their families – the Pay It Forward principle at it’s best.
I think I learned the most – about myself. In the end I gave my money to a young Latino who had just started up his own business. It’s tough to start a business in any climate – to be a young minority in Michigan, it might be even harder. He captured my heart – his will, his enthusiasm, his naive confidence that it could only be successful! I went looking to help someone who couldn’t help themselves and found myself supporting someone who decided, against all odds, to help himself. I was drawn to support that. I’m not sure what that says about me – but the experience made me ‘happy’ and made me feel a connection to my community that I didn’t feel before. I’ll do this again. Like my teammates at work – I’ll use my own money – I’ll involve my kids – I’ll try to hear more stories.
The money invested in this was the best investment in my company that I’ve made in a very long time. Please steal this idea – it doesn’t have to be $100 bills – it can be $5, $10, whatever – you’ll be better for it!