Working Out Loud Part 3 – Generosity

In January I talked about Building Relationships, the second of five key elements of Working Out Loud. Those five elements are: purposeful discovery, relationships, generosity, visible work, and growth mindset. This month I will talk about Generosity.

Generous by Design

Let’s answer the hard question first. To the existential question of “Are we generous?” The answer is an unequivocal yes. Generosity is part of our true nature. We may stray from that spiritual gift, and we do have a “flight” (as in fight or flight) mechanism that is involved. But to the question of will we sacrifice our own time, health or safety for the advancement of others, the answer is yes….sort of. Let me explain.

CS Lewis
CS Lewis cc2.0

The fact is, we have evolved to help others, because it means others are more likely to return the favor when we are in need. In C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Lewis points to the two fight-or-flight instincts, or what he calls the Herd Mentality. When the two are in conflict, generally the stronger instinct of the two should win. However, in humans there is a third instinct that allows us to choose to help others over that strong instinct to run in the face of danger. The psychology of Reciprocal Altruism strongly suggests that we are genetically pre-conditioned to help out our fellow women or men. In fact this is not necessarily a selfless act. We help others because we know on some level that this will (or at least could) in some way benefit us at some point.

Helping Hand cc 2.0

While we don’t regularly have opportunities to risk our lives for others (thank goodness), we can apply these principles to Working Out Loud. We contribute to others in our network without expectations, knowing that across the entirety of our network reciprocal altruism makes it likely you will ultimately benefit too. Take a second to think about the following acts:

  • Thanking someone in person, email or a phone call
  • Offering public, positive feedback on work you admire
  • Connecting people for mutual benefit

Small, simple acts like these are easy to do, but can make all the difference for others. Whether it’s making someone feel appreciated or connecting someone to a possible job prospect, in the end we all benefit.