The Law of Generosity

The motivational speaker and author shares a story that illustrates how much we gain by giving away.

By Jon Gordon, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

In the field of electronics there are resistors and conductors. A resistor holds on to its electrons and in doing so the resistor has little or no electrical current moving through it. Thus it has limited power.

The conductor, by contrast, gives up its electrons and in doing so it generates power from the current that flows through it. The greater the current, the greater the power that will be radiated by the conductor.

I believe generosity works the same way. Twenty years ago I started a non-profit in Atlanta called The Phoenix Organization. I needed a logo and a friend recommended I talk to Tall Paul who lived in our apartment complex.

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When Tall Paul opened his apartment door I realized why they called him Tall Paul. Turns out he was a basketball star at Bucknell University before he became a design student at The Creative Circus... and he was really tall!

I told Paul about my mission to raise money and organize volunteers for youth focused charities and explained that I needed a logo but didn't have any money. I was 23 years old, going to graduate school at the time and bartending at night to pay for school. Paul agreed to do it and within a few weeks he created the perfect logo. 

Several years later as Atlanta was preparing for the 1996 Olympics I owned a restaurant in Buckhead in addition to running the Phoenix Organization. I was asked by the Anheuser-Busch representatives if I knew someone who could paint large murals inside many of the establishments to prepare for the Olympics.

I recommended Paul and he was hired for a number of their projects. It was exciting to see the generosity he shared with me come back exponentially to him. 

I reminded Tall Paul of this story last spring as we reconnected and talked on the phone about our lives, families and careers. After a successful career in creative design and advertising, Tall Paul started his own photography business.

He was doing a lot of great photo shoots; Mayor Bloomberg included, but like any new business he wanted to grow. So I encouraged him to do what he did for me 20 years ago, help people in need. He liked the idea but was skeptical. After all, we were young, naive and single back then but now he had a family to support. 

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Nonetheless Paul decided to give it a shot and began sharing his talents and service without expecting anything in return. He brought his camera to BBQ gatherings with friends and took pictures of their kids, retouched the images and sent them frame-ready keepsakes. 

I had told Paul that when you give from the heart without expecting anything in return it’s amazing how opportunities will come back to you when you least expect them and that’s exactly what happened.

A few months later Paul received a call about a 5-week photo shoot for a global branding campaign for The Disney Channel. It was his biggest commercial job ever including photo shoots in LA, Atlanta, Chile, Chicago and NY. 

Yet, even as Paul was receiving he kept giving. In between travel stints during the Disney campaign he still gave to others in need. He did a few head shots for aspiring actors, took some PR photos for a musician and made a few logos for friends.

Paul said that the more he gave, the more commercial photography jobs came his way and before he knew it, he was booked through the end of the year. 

Jon Gordon is a speaker, consultant and author of several books, including The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work and the international best seller The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, which has captured the hearts of readers world-wide. Read more at jongordon.com.

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