Birthday Thoughts: Philanthropy

Yesterday was my birthday.  I turned 33 years old.

Ever since I can remember, September has been a time of contemplation for me.  Around Labor Day, I take advantage of the three day weekend to sorta turn inward.  I take inventory of my life in its totality.  I see what I have or have not done, where I can do better and if I need to make a shift in any area of my life.  Some big decisions that have been made during this time include the following:

  • Organizing a coup d’etat of the literary/writer’s club my senior year of high school ( I put out more publications that year then the club did the previous 3 years combined, w00t!)
  • Meeting my wife’s family to see if I could marry into it (they passed and we got engaged in October)
  • Bought my first house, signed docs on my birthday (though later backed out to pay for the wedding instead)
  • Got married to my beautiful wife (My reminder: 18 (my b-day) + 4 (ever) = 22 (my anniversary))

Two things stuck out of this year more so than others: Philanthropy and Resource Utilization.  I’ll tackle Philanthropy in this post.

360|Conferences is the company that John and I started to support our 360|Flex conferences.  With it as the vehicle, John and I were able to give $17K of our profits back (10% to the flex community and 10% to the world at large).  You can read the full details here, but the part that had real impact on me was the part we gave back to the world at large.  We gave $7K to the Second Harvest Food Bank, which translates to 14,000 meals.

As I said in the corporate post, it felt REALLY good to give that money to charity.  I’ve always known (since 6th grade, honestly) that I was going to be successful in business.  I even told my friends at the time, though I don’t think they got it.  🙂  [Sidenote: Throughout my life, I get premonitions/visions/feelings of things.  They’re moments of clarity where I see things and know them to be true.  It’s kinda freaky when it’s about other peeps, but its usually about my life, thankfully.]

While I knew that I’d be successful in business, I was never shown/told what the business would be, how I would be successful, or why.  I knew I had to plan to be prepared when the time came.  I’ve read hundreds of business books (Cluetrain rocks), biographies of business folk (Titan is the best one), and even the self-help/philosophy type books (The Magic of Thinking Big floats my boat).  Every job I’ve had I have analyzed the company far more in depth than management suspects. I look for good ideas to incorporate into my eventual business and bad ideas to watch out for down the road.  After all that, I’d like to think I have a good idea on how to be a good business person (though John does keep me in line when I start to drift!)

I still never understood the “Why” I was going to be a successful business person.  For the longest time, I thought it was so I could spend more time with my family.  However, I’ve tended to have good work/life balance (compared to others), so that couldn’t be it.  I now know why.

I pay tithing and it feels good.  But being a philanthropist is a feeling that simply can’t be beat.  I don’t think I have the skill set to run a food bank or to organize charity code jams.  However, I can surely make money elsewhere and give it to these endeavors. The great thing is that if the money comes via a business, the money isn’t really even mine.  I get to do something I love (the biz) and for which people entrust some of their hard earned cash to me.  I then get the opportunity to give 20% of it back to places where I think there is a need.  That’s a special honor and one I hope I continue to experience over the years.

If you haven’t tried philanthropy, give it a whirl.  Pick a good cause and figure out a way to help it.  If all you have is your time, well that is worth a lot.  If you have a business though, challenge yourself to start a philanthropical directive.  Be warned though as it is addictive. However, in this day and age, it’s the one addiction that I’d be proud to have.

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