Rule Five: Invest in Others
While they call it “Invest in Others”, this really feels like philanthropy. In their book, Happy Money, Elizabeth and Michael provide a lot of compelling arguments that some of the best return on happiness comes from donating to others. However, if your donations have these attributes, the donation delivers you the most happiness.
- Make it a choice
- Make a connection
- Make an impact
When you feel like it’s a choice, you feel empowered. As a friend of mine once joked, “Barney the Dinosaur is a socialist”
“How can you say that?” I asked
“Because if you want to share its philanthropy. If you have to give, it’s socialism.”
The point being, that a key ingredient in effectively investing in others is our own feelings of self-control and self-efficacy.
After you get to choose where your hard-earned dollars go, the next step in the ladder toward happy philanthropy is to make a connection with the people you are helping. Finally, what will help cement the good will is the feeling that you made a difference. Successful, happy philanthropists want to know that made an impact.
And as I look back, I would say one of the very best things I ever did that combined nearly all of these 5 ideas was my trip to Guatemala with my daughter Rebecca. We went with a Christian Faith based Non-Profit group called Outreach for World Hope.
In her book Tears Water the Seeds of Hope, Kim Tews writes about how she created an amazing ministry in Central America that helps the poorest of the poor.
I was intruded to Kim and her husband Randy through my friend Chris. It started out innocently enough. I went to a National Honor Society meeting at our local high school. Normally when I go to these things, my goal is to not fall asleep and embarrass my wife. I never expected to walk away with a life changing idea.
But that’s what happened. The incoming president of the class of 2016 NHS, gave a speech about Philanthropy and she said something like this (I paraphrase), “We have to trust that work we are doing actually helps someone.”
Looking back, she was directly commenting on the 3 core items revealed by Happy Money. Most of the charity events the kids worked on were not of their choosing, they were handed work. Secondly, they never met anyone they helped. Finally, there was no method of feedback. They could never see the impact of their efforts.
I left the room thinking about how my own charitable activities, both personally and through GameTruck had been sufficiently sanitized to the point that, while I have more control over who I donate to or support, I never make a connection and I couldn’t think of any meaningful impact.
I don’t feel like I wasted my time, but I started to feel extremely disconnected. Like all this Philanthropy had become extremely sterile. I shared these feelings with Chris at my weekly bible study group and he said, “Hey you want to go to Guatemala?”
My initial reaction was, “Lord no!” But before those words came out of my mouth, I realized that was exactly what I needed to do. I needed to get outside my comfort zone. And so, that’s what I did. And I can tell you that going to Guatemala was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, not only for me, but also for my daughter.
The trip itself is another story for another day, but looking back it touched on 4 of the 5 rules and hit all three of the rule five attributes.
- We bought an experience, not a thing.
- It was definitely a treat, something we looked forward to.
- We paid first, and consumed later
- We invested in others
- We got to choose what we worked on
- We made connections with the people we helped
- We got to see the work help the people immediately
Looking back, I would say that single trip maximized nearly every attribute of the Happy Money principles and it was one that changed multiple lives including my own.