122 Pages That Helped Me Discover a Massive Blindspot
For as long as I can remember, I have operated on a desire to give. Most of my life’s work for the better part of the last 20 years has been based on serving others. My internal operating question is “how can I help you today?” It’s literally how I start all meetings with clients, students, etc. And I truly enjoy serving people in any capacity that I can, whether as a teacher, coach, mentor, workshop facilitator, retail store employee, tutor, valet-parking attendant, etc. No matter what role I played in life, I simply wanted to help and serve others. I walk away with an immense sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. If I can help someone remove a barrier to something important or have a breakthrough, I want to get in there and try.
Whether I am successful or not, this is often followed by someone saying two things. The first is thank you. And my reply is often, “it’s my pleasure.” And I mean that wholeheartedly. It really was my pleasure to serve. The second thing someone might say after thanking me is, “what can I do for you? How can I help you?” And to this, my reply has been quite consistent. I often say, “Thank you, but that’s not necessary.” or “I appreciate that, but I simply wanted to help out.” or “Thank you, but I’m all set, I’m just glad that I could help.”
The Power of Long Held Beliefs and Mindsets
These responses were born out of a key belief, value, or mindset to give without expecting or desiring anything in return. So it made sense that in order to uphold this belief, that I must reply by declining someone’s offer to help me after I did so for them. Those polite declines became autopilot. I don’t even think about the words, they just flow right out of my mouth when someone offers to help me after I had just served them.
This belief or mindset also spilled over into other areas of life where people might offer to help me with something (without me serving them first). I trained myself so hard to be a helper of people (i.e. teaching, coaching, mentoring) that I forgot how to ask for or receive help from people. In fact, my master’s in psychology training is in executive coaching. So essentially, I went out and learned some of the most lethal skills for helping others achieve breakthroughs and have spent over a decade fine tuning those skills. As a result, helping people became my work and the better I got at that, the worse I got at asking for and receiving help.
A Timely Gift I Received
Then, earlier this year, a dear friend, whom I met when she asked me to serve as a panelist in an event she was hosting, gifted me a book. Fortunately, she didn’t really give me an option about receiving this gift. She simply asked for my address because she was going to send something over and that was that! I had no chance to respectfully decline her kind gesture, haha! And I’m glad I didn’t because this little book helped me see a blindspot that I had not quite noticed so clearly until now.
The book she gifted me was The Go-Giver, a parable about 5 principles for success. The 5 principles are all based in the key idea of being a go-giver as opposed to a go-getter. However, it was the 5th principle that gave me my breakthrough moment of clarity.
The 5th principle is: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.
One of the main characters in the parable, who plays the role of the mentor, shares this principle with the young man he is teaching. And it was one particular way of putting it that gave me the breakthrough.
The mentor shared that giving and receiving is like inhaling and exhaling. You really cannot have one without the other. If you consider the greater ecosystem, we breath in oxygen because plants give us oxygen. Plants breath in carbon dioxide because we give them carbon dioxide. One cannot happen without the other. It is a cycle. It’s just as natural as inhaling and exhaling. You cannot have one without the other. They fuel each other.
Thus, for people and relationships to be successful, this cycle must be kept going and not interrupted or cut off.
I realized that by being so focused on giving and shutting off receiving, I was doing two things:
First, I was walking around exhaling all day and not inhaling. You can’t exhale forever without inhaling. Much like we cannot give, give, give without receiving too. In fact, the idea is that, what I receive is what I can eventually give. Much like I received this book from a dear friend and I am now exhaling to give its lessons to anyone who might read this. I could have never given or shared this lesson, if I had not first received this kind gift from a dear friend.
The second thing I was doing by shutting off receiving was denying someone else the opportunity to give. Someone wanted to give what they had received and I denied them that opportunity. As a result, I cut off the cycle of giving and receiving, which is ultimately what builds strong relationships. When I think of my strongest relationships, I realize there is a balance of giving and receiving. My best friend, since we were 9 years old, gives so much to me and I receive it. And I do everything I can to give to him. It’s no wonder we have been best friends for over 30 years.
It’s funny to think how this principle has been right under my nose for some time. As coaches, I give by way of receiving. I was taught to unleash my clients by asking them questions instead of giving them advice thus creating the space for them to have a breakthrough. It seems I need to do more of that outside of my coaching sessions and create more opportunities for mutual breakthroughs.
Well, I cannot end this post without thanking Dr. Stacey Gonzalez for sharing this powerful story with me. Thank you, Stacey, these 122 pages helped me have a breakthrough. This article is one small way I hope to keep the cycle going.