I was thinking about being transactional: you do this for me, I do this for you. Often, the transaction is about money. When I pay for a thing—a book, a workshop, something that took you time to create—the transaction is a sort of pay-back.
I take classes to learn various things: how to write better, how to manage my business better, how to be a better coach, many kinds of classes. I pay tuition for the learning. Don’t confuse with paying for education with learning. For many of my classmates, the learning is optional.
I don’t think of “paying back” for the classes. I’ve already paid tuition. If I use what I learned, I can pay the knowledge forward.
I’ve already said help doesn’t need to be reciprocal.
I met someone on vacation last week who is learning to code. He has the intellectual curiosity to succeed. I don’t know if he will, but that’s up to him and some lucky breaks.
When we “pay it forward” we offer people those lucky breaks.
I’ve had many of those lucky breaks. I made some of those myself. Some, I recognized and said, “yes.”
One of my big lucky breaks arrived when the middle managers resigned rather than laying a bunch of us off. Because their salaries were so high, a bunch of us could be promoted into their jobs at lower pay. I took that opportunity, that lucky break. I learned a ton doing the management work. I’ve been paying that lucky break back with my writing, teaching, and consulting.
I had a lucky break when I met Jerry Weinberg. I’d seen an announcement of his keynoting at a conference when I started my business and was looking to speak at conferences. I created the opportunity and got a little lucky when the conference took my proposal. Since then, I’ve taken what I learned and paid it forward.
It’s difficult for me to think that my vertigo is a “lucky” break. On the other hand, I’ve learned—and continue to learn—and I pay it (what I learn) forward.
A transactional payment doesn’t involve much emotion or thought. Paying it forward requires emotion, thought, and perseverance.
It’s easier to pay back, to create a transaction. It’s more difficult for me to pay it forward with intention.
The longer I work (and maybe live!), the fewer transactions I want. Sure, I have transactions all the time and they satisfy the needs I have.
What I really want is the human connection. I might not have been mature enough earlier in my life to understand and recognize that’s what I want. But, it is. And, I get that human connection when I pay it forward.
The guy last week? I’m trying to pay it forward. My online workshops? More paying it forward.
There’s no right or wrong answer for this question. To be honest, it’s all contextual. I don’t want much more than a transaction when I go to the grocery store. If I get more, I’m delighted, but I don’t want more.
When I offer you my writing and questions, and especially when you comment, that’s the pay-it-forward I want.
And, that’s the question this week: When do you pay it back and when do you pay it forward?
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