Ten Ways To Work In The Spirit Of The Gift
This is Part 2 of Mirror Living’s guest post on Revolutionary Economics. See Part 1 HERE.
Her ideas have inspired me this week in how I have shared my Be Your Own Publisher course – which now has 40 enrolled students. You can join us too at the double-sale early bird price of $90 until midnight 28/2.
Working in the gift economy is truly a revolutionary path. It’s confronting. There’s a high likelihood we’ll be discounted as directionless, naive and slightly ridiculous hippies by a large proportion of the population if we waltz on in with all guns blazing daisies everywhere.
Yet the heart wants what the heart wants. This path is alive and calling to those who believe deeply in the more beautiful world and are committed to making a difference on the one tiny patch of earth they stand on. The gift economy is a vision of human connection, generosity and love in action that really can transform and heal the isolation inherent in our society and how we relate to each other for all time.
How do we do it?
So how do we do both? Step onto the path of business in the current economy while remaining rooted in the heart’s desire to be of service? It’s an ongoing exploration, constantly moving, flowing. There’s no wrong way or right way. Only your way. The answer isn’t important, it’s the asking of the question that matters most.
And a willingness to keep on asking the question as new information, experiences, challenges and learning come your way. To return often in the midst of chaotic effort to ask, “How can I be of service? How can I give?” In this way, gift economy values are anchored and become the norm. In this way we slowly but permanently shift the dominant paradigm by bringing more light to business. We become the gift.
Ten Ways To Work In The Spirit Of The Gift
Below are ten ways of working in the spirit of the gift while running a business in the present economy. It’s imperative to know your limits and know yourself and be gentle in the face of others’ misunderstandings for this is truly a radical path. If we are not, the gift economy may be reduced to just another fancy marketing strategy designed to influence perception instead of a deep honouring of the sacred breath of life we’ve been given. May your heart finds solace and inspiration here and practical ways to express the spirit of the gift through your business!
1. Have deeply loving customer service as your primary priority.
I’ve been shocked at the level of service many businesses seem content with and I’ve been shocked by how poorly I’ve been treated as a paying customer at times. Your clients will have similar experiences. They will notice and appreciate your willingness to listen and understand their story. This is a gift in a world where many “successful” businesses don’t honour, value and respect customers and their money. You may feel that being kind and loving to every person who walks in the door is always present but this question asks you how you can bring even more caring and connection to each exchange on every level.
2. Offer one of your services “by donation” or “in the spirit of the gift”.
Getting clear on what you’re happy to give and what is definitely a paid service will help you identify where to start with what to give. You might have a weekly community yoga class for $5 or a monthly community get together, satsang, movie night, devotional music performance or something else. This way, you’ll always have an option for folks who want to connect with you but cannot afford full price. This way you’ll be nourished and inspired to continue giving when natural gratitude arises from your clients and students. If you’re a healer, consider forming a small group with other local practitioners to share regular, community giving back days – one afternoon every month or so where everyone offers low-cost sessions and treatments in one location.
3. Give expansive time frames for installment plans.
Many businesses do not do this, leaving little room for flow and negotiation. I’ve even heard flexible approaches denigrated by teachers of spiritual entrepreneurs as “betraying the many to give special treatment to the few”. There are good reasons for this but the reality remains in the life of a small business owner – there have been 7 different higher-end programs and courses over the past 5 years I wouldn’t have been able to participate in were it not for the generosity and understanding of the facilitators. This is not about special treatment, it’s about responding to the realities of life. I remain forever grateful for the love the facilitators showed me and I’ve referred many clients to them because of this. Don’t offer extensions immediately – honour your own commitment to cash flow and covering expenses first but have this as a quiet option. Wait until you are approached personally. If someone really wants your services and they cannot find a way to make it happen financially right now, they will take action to connect with you. Trust them and trust their process. See what your heart and intuition say when the situation arises. Always be flexible (when you can) for this is a gift.
4. Ask for feedback and deal with all complaints and issues in a loving way.
Ask your clients for their honest feedback – how can you improve? What worked for you? What didn’t work for you? Many businesses lack even a primitive platform for feedback and so are missing valuable ways to connect and deepen in relationship with their clients. Have a loving and supportive refund policy. Tell folks what it is and why it exists. Let them know refunds and credits are possibly in extreme circumstances. Assess these on an individual basis instead of having one blanket policy that is enforced regardless of the individual situation. If you don’t want to refund them, that’s totally OK but what can you offer to make them feel just a little better? How can you be supportive of them instead of dismissive (like so many business) if they are dissatisfied? How can you listen to the feedback they are giving you? This is a gift.
5. Be open to giving when your heart is called.
If your heart really wants to work with someone but you know they cannot afford it, see if you can still help them while supporting yourself and the reality of your needs simultaneously. Can you give them mini sessions? Invite them to your community events? Give them a referral to a government service? Call them on a phone for a brief chat once a month or so? Whatever your heart feels to give. There are no rules and no limitations. Just make sure that it’s a genuine YES from your heart and that you’re not giving with any sense of obligation or rescuing as this can lead to resentment. And if you notice resentment building in relation to this particular client, let them know you can no longer keep supporting them as a gift. They will certainly understand and may have some ideas and suggestions themselves (perhaps they can give to you in some other way? Perhaps their situation has changed from when your relationship first began and they may now be able to pay you for your time?).
6. Share excellent, informative and transformational stuff online.
Share things that are of genuine value and bring more love to the world. Do not just talk about all the amazing things you’re doing in your business on social media. Give. Give. Give. Honour another practitioner. Honour your own teachers. Share a story of how much a certain book or practice has changed your life. Tell a story that’s restored faith in humanity. Celebrate a client. If you look, there are a 1000 ways to give and combat the narcissism that mediums like facebook create. This takes skill, time and thought to develop and helps negate the quick-look-at-me, blaring, hyped-up messages that are the norm online. Over time, people will notice the depth, stillness and integrity shared and associate it with you. This is a gift.
7. Be integral in giving as much as you can be.
Do not give in order to get all the time. This is a deeply transformative and passionate enquiry only you can find the answer to. Only you know the deeper motivation behind your giving and the purity of your intentions. It’s OK in business to give to get from time to time. In fact, giving to get is what business and marketing is all about. It’s the truth. Know when you’re giving to get and celebrate this, make this OK for yourself, understand that giving to get is the way of the current economy and of the society we find ourselves in. Giving to get is also how traditional gift economies work in the purest sense (tribal members give to get positive regard and public accolade for example. Or they give because their generosity ensures they will also be supported in the future when they need help). Don’t always give to get though or before you know it, every decision you make in business and life will be determined by what you will get out of it and this does not feel good. Give for no reason other than because you can occasionally. Give because it feels amazing to be of service especially when there is no hope of return.
8. Give referrals.
If you cannot help someone do your best to find another excellent teacher or practitioner to send them to. Don’t do this for an affiliate or referral fee as that changes the energetic. Do it because this other person is genuinely more skilled in a particular area then you are or because you personally have benefited from and love their products or services. Do it because you want to help. Do it because you cannot benefit from this immediately. This is a gift and it shows you care deeply about another’s path and that you’re willing to take time to find out enough about them and their issues to give them something genuinely worthwhile.
9. Support a local charity or cause.
Is there a cause you’re inspired by and want to support? Some businesses choose to donate a set amount from every dollar earned or product sold. Others host fundraising community events for a cause or recent natural disaster. Perhaps you can find time to volunteer personally with hands-on work in your local community on a regular basis (reading to children or people in aged care homes for example) – this is my favourite option because of its immediacy. Guaranteed, it’s one of the fasted ways to bliss and you’ll leave your time volunteering uplifted and with a ton of new energy to devote to your business and life. Think about something that truly benefits those around you and how money you earn through your business could support this.
10. Be part of the revolution by joining alternative economy movements
Every time we consciously step outside the mainstream economy we are taking power away from it. Every time we make a choice to support local farmers markets or grow our own veggies we are influencing our children’s future and supporting sustainability and the more beautiful world. By choosing to use barter and trade we can create mutually supportive relationships outside of the monetary system. It can be fun and easy to trade services in a small circle of friends. Joining an organisation like Bartercard or a local LETS group provides a formalised framework and allows us to access services and products we may not be able to otherwise. There’s also internet based currencies like Bitcoin that return power to the people and contribute less to the debt-based slavery that’s so ubiquitous we consider it “normal”. My favourite alternative economy is Time Banking – where we can trade hour for hour regardless of the value of that service. Can you imagine the love and deep respect contained in a world where a lawyer’s time is worth as much as the time of the woman who cleans his office? Connecting with alternative economy movements is also an excellent way to be supported in community and to find others who share similar ideals.
The list is not exhaustive by any means and I’d love to hear your ideas on how else we can do this! Without doubt, the more we look for opportunities to live in the spirit of the gift, the more we’ll find them. The energy of give and receive is all around us. It’s happening everywhere in nature and in families and in friendships. And more and more, it’s happening in the world of commerce and business and you and me are part of that.
It takes tremendous courage to walk this path and we are not alone. One choice to reclaim dollars from the dominant economy at a time. One taste of receiving gratitude. One minute of simple connection. One experience of our tender vulnerability and one moment at a time of knowing what it is to reach out and trust a stranger with our lives and all we hold dear.
That’s the world of love I want to live in. Will you join me in the revolution?
Mirror Living teaches authentic marketing for yoga teachers and healers. Devoted yogini, love bunny, living room dancer madly in awe of any practice that takes us from our heads to the beauty of our hearts and wisdom of the body. She digs playing with puppets, swimming naked, crystal singing bowls and anything that even vaguely hints at offering the tiniest taste of divinity… Mirror is the founder of The Conscious Business Circle – a support group for yoga teachers and healers that meets regularly in south-east Queensland, Australia. Come join the community: www.businessfromtheheart.com or on Facebook