I want to write you this letter about how being generous is one of the best “investment strategies” and how the more you give, the more you will receive in return.
My personal history
When I grew up, my mom could barely pay for rent. Seriously, every month we were a paycheck away from being homeless.
Needless to say, I couldn’t have made it this far in life without support and love from the community, and all those who have helped me get to where I am. I am so grateful to all of my mentors in school, my sports coaches, my Sunday school teachers, Boy Scouts leaders, and community leaders who kept me on the right path in life.
I still remember, when I was applying for scholarships and for college, my life’s mission was this:
When I “grow up”, I will do everything in my power to give back to the community.
Fast-forward; I get into UCLA and study Sociology, and get lots of scholarships and government funding to pay my ass through school. I also do work-study, and made it school with minimal loans (only around $10,000– spent on traveling and photography).
When I was a poor student, I couldn’t afford digital tools (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc) to create things to help others. Now as an adult I can.
Tools can empower others, and I have found the more you empower others, the more you are empowered.
And also with life, the more generous you are, the more you receive in return.
Why give it away?
The concept of “open source” has always appealed to me. Open source tools help empower millions around the globe. Not only that, but information that is open and free can empower people mentally–giving them ideas that can help them help society.
Therefore I made the pledge to keep everything on my blog open and free– and to dedicate my life to create as much information to empower other photographers and human beings.
At first, people thought I was crazy for putting all of my ebooks, photos, and videos online for free. People told me that I should charge for that, and by giving away all my information, people would have no incentives to attend my workshops, and that I would go broke.
But in reality, the opposite happened. The more information I gave away, the more people learned about me, and ultimately it helped me build my personal “brand”. More and more people started to learn who I was, and now I am fortunate enough that my workshops are selling out quite well, I’m now selling products (camera straps), and physical paper books.
The funny thing is that many have told me that I am a “marketing genius” for having the great idea of giving away my information for free, to advertise myself and sell my “paid services”. In the startup world, they call this the “freemium” model (give away free information, and charge for “premium” services, like workshops).
In reality, I had no idea that would happen, but it did.
Give more than you take
The best way I heard to be “successful” as a business is to create more value than you take. Another way to become “wealthy” is to create wealth for others (think how Uber creates new wealth or avenues to make money for drivers, and taking a cut). The same goes for Google, by creating AdWords they have created new wealth for millions of bloggers and creators all over the world, and of course have capitalized on it for themselves.
I think in today’s digital world and economy– the only way to survive is to be generous. The more you give, the more trust you build, and the more legitimacy you build.
If you think about real human relationships; who do you prefer to have as a friend? Do you want a friend who only takes from you? Or do you prefer the friend who is always generous, always offering to pick up the bill when you guys eat out?
This is why people love services like Google. Google gives us a lot more than it takes. With Google we have access to all the worlds information, cheap smartphones with Android, and Google maps which has revolutionized transportation. Of course, we give them our private data in return– something that most people feel is worth the trade.
How can you be more generous?
How can you be more generous in your photography and life? Perhaps you can be more generous by giving away free prints to close friends or people you meet on the streets. If you shoot a street portrait of someone, perhaps you can offer to email them a copy of the photo.
You can be generous by volunteering to teach local photography classes. You can give away your information and ideas for free on your blog. You can be generous with the feedback and critique you give others on social media.
If you make a living as a commercial photographer, perhaps you can put in the extra mile to give extra attention or service to your clients. You can give them a free gift like a small book or print.
What are other ways you can share your love and heart?
Whenever in doubt, be generous. And I can guarantee, your wealth, happiness, and heart will only expand and never run out.