The Greatest Wealth Is What You Give Away

by Ben Holt on March 3, 2012

Sincerity and Gratitude

I send emails, cards, and sometimes chocolate to the people in my life who have influenced me profoundly. I let them know the impact they’ve had and how it’s affected what I’m doing today. The practice energizes me and has made me more open to reaching out to influence others.

I highly recommend trying it out.


“Thank You” As Currency

We live in a transaction-heavy culture where even saying “thank you” can become an act of commerce. This is usually how the social game of business is played, whether in blogging, start-ups, or in blue-chip companies. Saying “thank you” (and perhaps throwing in comp tickets to a Final Four game) establishes a connection and a level of trust that can be leveraged to score the next deal or build “social capital”.

Business people love to measure – what gets measured gets managed, they say – and some think you can measure the ROI (return on investment) of a “thank you.” I have no real problem with this, I suppose, so long as you remain sincere and authentic, and always work to create win-win situations. Don’t just go through the motions, but show real gratitude when you mean it. In fact, showing real gratitude is a part of how the community is growing around this blog.

What you can’t easily measure is the ROI of giving without expectation of getting anything in return, but this is truly where the greatest benefits are found.

Volunteering and Giving

This year, I have a few goals specific to giving. I’m not talking about them to show what a caring, giving person I am – I honestly couldn’t care less if people think that of me – but in the hope of inspiring others to follow suit. Here they are:

Have a gift-free Christmas and birthday

I live a simple, minimalist life and spend more time getting rid of things than accumulating them. My friends and family have a hard time believing me when I tell them that I sincerely don’t want anything for my birthday or Christmas. (I haven’t told them yet that I’d love it if they went gift-free too. I try to not be too pushy when it comes to this philosophy.) I’ll write more about this when the holidays approach, so I’ll leave it alone for now. I’ve got a plan to raise a bunch of money for charity which goes along with this, so stay tuned!

Lend 5% of my income through Kiva to help others support their families

I was recently turned on to Kiva by Jeremy Salvador at Zero Passive Income and Joel Runyon on his blog, The Blog of Impossible Things. Kiva is a micro-financing platform that gets money from the haves (that’s us) and lends it to the have-lesses – hard-working people in less developed countries who need, what is for us, a small about of cash to finance a business. They may, for example, need to raise $500 to buy or repair some farm equipment or a taxi. Kiva lets you lend very small amounts to these wonderful, resourceful people. The loans and their use are overseen by coordinators, and are nearly always paid back in full. I’m starting with 5% and will grow it from there if my experience with Kiva is good.

Giving without expectation of getting

I’ve pledged to give 25% of my income to charity. This is part of my Ethical Business philosophy (inspired largely by Raam Dev). Additionally, I have a goal of volunteering 60 hours with one or more non-profits that do work that I believe in.

Giving the best stuff away for free

And finally, I’ve pledged to give away the best content on this blog for free. That’s why I keep it uncopyrighted (thanks for the idea, Leo!) and don’t have any members-only or ad-supported content on this site. Jump is 100% reader-supported. If you love what I’m about, you may find there are products or services that I talk about that may help you live your passion. Some of those proceeds form a portion of my income, but the flagship content is, and always will be free.

I firmly believe that we grow the most when we give the most, and I aim to live that philosophy.

I know people who run science fairs at schools, work soup kitchens, or tutor students. If you have some way that you love to give, either of your time, expertise, or money, please tell us about it in the comments!

  • Justin Mazza

    Hi Ben,
    Love what you are talking about here. Every three months or so I place a large cardboard box in my basement and fill it with stuff that I no longer need or use and I donate it. I am not a big fan of having a lot of stuff that I don’t need or use.

    Less is more. 

    • / Ben Holt

       Hey Justin,
      I’m a fan of that technique too. You get the double bonus of getting rid of things you don’ t need, and helping people out!

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