A series of unrelated events happened last week. They drove home a beautiful point.
Lately, I have been reading a book - Linchpin - by the renowned entrepreneur and author Seth Godin. In this book, he talks about linchpins - the persons who make themselves indispensable to the organization. One of the concepts that he expounds in this book is 'The powerful culture of gifts'.
In the olden days, society was organized into tribes. A gift was something that was given by a member of a tribe to another. In a tribe, everyone knew each other. Giving gifts increased the mutual connection and bond between each other. Once you give a gift to someone, it invariably came back to you in myriad of ways. However, gifts, by definition, are invaluable. They should not be considered in terms of money. The best gifts that you can give are those that cannot be returned or valued in terms of money. You may give the gift of kindness to someone or the gift of time or that of an invaluable help.
In a capitalist economy, things are different. Money, talks. Gifts have different connotations and repercussions. If everything runs on concept of gifts and sharing, then, there would be no way to amass wealth. Hence, when traders emerged in the scene, the concept of gift took a backseat. Traders did not want to form a bond with the people with whom they do business. They wanted to maintain others at arm’s length so that they can demand money (along with their profit) for the goods they supply. Gifts were also used to manipulate and get unfair advantage. Slowly, this culture permeated through all strata of society and it has now come to such a state that whenever someone gives you a gift, you think what could be the ulterior motive of the person behind that act. Though giving gifts did not stop altogether, people considered the value of gifts they received from others so that they would also give a return gift for similar amount.
This thing was there in my mind for a few days. In fact, I am also in the same boat. I tend to think twice before giving any gift to anyone. Truth to be told, I am actually very reluctant in receiving gifts as well. If someone gives me any gift, I think several times more on why the other people chose to gift me.
Last Saturday, I went to my Toastmasters club. In the toastmasters meeting, we have several speakers who speak on various topics. Mr. Padmakumar, who is the present division governor, told us about a talk he listened to recently. The talk was delivered by Mr. Devdutt Patnaik, who is the Chief Belief Officer of Future group. I would like to share with you the gist of one of the key take-away.
In ancient times, people used to do homa (homam, or havan). Homa is a sacred pyre in which the yajaman (person who is organizing the homa) has to give different offerings to the fire. Offerings typically would be in form of Ghee, wood, etc. Whenever the yajaman would pour the offering in the fire, he says swaha. Once the homa is over, the pundits presiding over the agnihotra will say tathastu.
Symbolically, it means, for any endeavor, one has to offer something first before expecting any return. The best gift can be considered as offering yourself. And once it is over, the in return, the universe says tathastu - so be it - Let your wishes be fulfilled. Thus, unless we give a gift of ourselves, we cannot expect any reward. Padmakumar tied this beautifully to present day situations in our organizations. While working, we wants all our whims, fancies, salary and promotion expectations to be fulfilled, but we are not ready to give anything prior to that. We need to give our dedication, discipline, determination and hard work before expecting anything in return. He said, first we need to give a gift and then it will come back to us multiplied manifold.
Having read Mr Godin's idea of gift just a few days back, I instantly appreciated this idea.
Back home on the next day, I was going through the blogs that I subscribe to on Google reader.
Joshua Becker maintains a very beautiful blog called Becoming Minimalist. Apart from the wonderful articles and stories on minimalism that he posts, every weekend he also posts assorted links from other bloggers. Last weekend he had posted a link from a blog post by Allison Vesterfelt. Allison in this post - A Surprising Way to Become More Generous – exhorts us to give, receive and give some more.
I went through the post. It was a lesson to me. I learnt that if you want to be more generous, if you want to give more to others, the first thing that you need to do is to accept graciously first. It is like water flowing in a stream. If you stop the flow of water in the upstream, the flow will dry up in the downstream. I could identify myself and my behavior in that post. It was as an eye-opener for me. My thoughts went back to the days when I stayed in a bachelor pad. I used to keep note of every single rupee I spent on common expenses and for others. I never liked to take anything from anybody and hence no one also liked to take anything from me as well. The reverse could also be true. But the fact was that I didn’t like to share.
For the past few days I have been ruminating over these incidents. These disparate events over the last week have beautifully brought home the point of sharing. It was as if the world was conspiring to hammer this concept of gift down on me. Thinking through, I realized that I need to be more generous in giving and more gracious in accepting. Gifting is really a powerful habit. That is how it should be. That is what I would strive for now.
Do let me know what your thoughts about giving and receiving gifts are.