For most of my life I didn’t really know how to accept help or gifts. Sure, I’d say thank you, but then I felt like I owed the other person something. in some ways I still do, but now I see the bigger picture.

We all need help. So we should all be willing to help others.

What a lot of people get caught up in is quid pro quo – something for something else. Trading one thing for another. A favor for a favor. Keep count and make sure you’re never owing someone something. Sometimes it’s good to have others “owe” you so that you can call in a favor in the future.

But that’s mercenary thinking.

What I’ve come to realize is that the way the world really works is this:

The more you help others, the more they help you. It doesn’t matter as much who you help or who helps you back. Being the kind of person that helps others without expecting a direct and equivalent value return is much more important. Help. Give. Assist. Share your knowledge. And it all comes back in much bigger and unexpected ways.

You never know who someone knows (you can’t count on LinkedIn for accurate information with lots of fake friends). The little things you do for someone could end up generating the connection of your dreams because people talk.


People talk about selfless givers, “Wow, Bob just helped me with… That was a big deal.”

People talk about selfish givers, “Bob helped me, but I could tell that he’s ready to cash it in and try to sell me something I don’t need.”

People talk about non-givers, “I asked Bob if he could do a little favor, and he wouldn’t. Wouldn’t have taken more than a minute, but he’s too self-absorbed.”


When people talk, others listen (Is E.F. Hutton still around? Haven’t heard much from him recently). And they act on that knowledge. Whether people believe in gossiping or not, they end up doing it. I don’t like gossip, but if someone I care about asks me what I think of someone, I tell the truth (as nicely as I can, but with fair warning if needed).


Receiving help and gifts? I can genuinely say thank you and not feel a twinge of need to give back because I know I’m giving to everyone as I can, and it will come back to that person. I’m sure I’ll still try to do something for the person, but there’s no urgency or guilt.

MORAL: Like my friend Oie Osterkamp says, “Be a sharefish in a selfish world.”

Image Credit: By teamstaufenberger [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Flickr