The unexpected gains of giving back
Last night we had a couple of friends over for dinner (don't worry, we are allowed small groups in the area I'm in), and our conversation led me to share with them a situation from my work life. While I no longer have a veterinary clinic, I am frequently asked for help by friends and acquaintances. The part I really enjoy is that I make the decision not to charge for my professional advice, and offer my help for free now - thanks to my current work structure. However, not charging for my knowledge and services comes with certain challenges.
On one occasion, a yoga classmate asked me for help with her young dog, let’s call her Bella, who had a troubling history of very aggravating skin problems. After taking Bella’s medical history, examining her, and spending a couple of hours with her family, I proposed a treatment plan, suggested feeding a raw diet instead of kibble, as well as the Fab 4 essentials. I asked Bella’s “dog parents” for patience as I knew that her situation would require several weeks before there would be any signs of improvement.
Sadly, in less than a week, Bella’s owners (a busy couple who ran and owned a few restaurants in the area), asked their original vet for a prescription of steroids (prednisone), because they felt they needed a quick fix.
I was disappointed but knew that Bella's care was in her guardians' hands, but I also wondered if it was the right decision to provide my services for free. Was my advice taken for granted?
A few weeks later, I had a meal in one of the restaurants Bella’s “parents” owned. They were happy to see me and greeted me with enthusiasm. My party and I ordered, and they let me pay the full bill. Just business as usual.
I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed and taken advantage of. Rationally, I knew I shouldn’t have had any expectations, but feeling disappointed is only human. They also never let me know what happened to Bella, and I hope that she is okay.
My experience brought up one question: How do we solve the dilemma of giving? Do we forget about it, and live a self-centered and self-indulgent life? Of course not!
It appears to me that we have two choices:
1. To give to friends and others, and continue to practice the very difficult art of non-attachment. We can also be more mindful in deciding who we give to.
2. As an alternative of giving to individuals, we can choose to give to a group or a cause. If you choose right, they will likely thank you for your time, expertise, or financial contribution. I have always felt super appreciated by you, our community, and also by my team, so it may work for you and others, too.
It also happens that when we give to a group or a cause, and put our own benefits aside, rewards come in many unexpected ways.
For example, about a year ago, I came up with the idea of eliminating bubble wrap and other plastic from all our product shipments, which was used to prevent the glass jars from breaking. One of our team members, Leah, took on the challenge and came up with the great idea of cardboard eco-sleeves. They were more costly than bubble wrap, and their use impacted our bottom line, but the change was needed in order to adhere to our values.
In the end, the eco-sleeves have been a huge success, and many people were thrilled to see this change. In addition, the rate of product breakage has gone down dramatically and the eco-sleeves have paid for themselves by reducing losses! Nice, isn't it?!
Giving not only feels good but it also proves to be a good business practice. Look at Elon Musk! He risked his wealth to change the world for the better and he hasn’t done badly in the process.
It seems that at the end of the day, good karma really does work!
Take care, and give your dog a hug for me!