Where is the Line Between Gift and Investment?

Liz Strauss has an interesting post entitled Change the World: Give When No One Notices, in which she talks about the book "The Giving Tree", and her changing view of the story over time. She also speaks about Nelson Mandela:
"The difference between a victim and a Nelson Mandela is a choice in the mind of the giver.

We choose unconditional love or choose to be a victim. The response of the one who receives doesn’t enter into the decision. Many who were helped by Nelson Mandela showed and felt no response to his gift. Yet he didn’t become the victim.

That one choice by Nelson Mandela so inspires me to make the same kind of choices in my own far less burdensome situations.

Sometimes we give and no one seems to notice. That doesn’t matter. Does it?"
In my previous post A Bit of Friendly Advice, I opined that there is no benefit to self-pity and a scarcity mentality. Liz's post is very much aligned with those thoughts, but more articulate in the prescription for how to live.

People suffering from scarcity mentality only give when there is an expectation of getting something in return. But this isn't really giving; it's investing. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Without investment in relationships there'd be society as we know it.

The problem comes (as Liz points out) when your 'gift' doesn't pay the expected dividend. As a giver, you then have a choice to make. You can feel wronged. You can choose not to give again. Or you can realize that a gift is truly a gift when there is no expectation of return; only gratitude for being able to give.

Let's use my friendly advice as an example. If I offer it with the expectation that it will result in immediate behavior change, I'm in for great disappointment. If I offer it with expectation that it will be immediately appreciated, same thing. Since it's unsolicited advice, I will most likely get just the opposite. But I think that the ideas can be of real value to the receiver, so I will give them without any expectation, and be grateful that I can.

So where is the line between gift and investment?

It's a trick question. EVERYTHING we do is an investment; we just don't know where it's going, or what the payback will be. Whether you believe in the Law of Attraction or the biblical dictum "As you sow, so shall you reap", the principle is the same. The energy you put into the world will be magnified and reflected back to you; you just don't necessarily know how or when. That's why both "The Prayer of Jabez" and "The Luck Factor" say that one of the keys to gaining God's blessings / being lucky is to actively look for gifts/luck, because you can't predict when they'll show up or what form they'll take!

One personal example of these principles is this blog. The time and effort spent on it appears to have a pretty low payback. Total Donations: $0. Total Amazon Associate earnings: $6.37. Even by less monetary standards it would seem to be disappointing. The MEDIAN number of comments per post is ZERO. The majority of my posts, even some that I consider my very best work, draw neither cheers nor jeers. The most frequent referral page is Google image search results for "Bullitt mustang", which was a toss-in graphic in one of my posts.

A while back I had a choice to make. I could quit, which is what most bloggers eventually do. I could get serious about my blogging effort as an investment and retool the site with focused content and take the numerous suggestions available online and get those metrics moving in the right direction. Or I could treat Spooky Action as a gift to you.

And my heart told me that's the right thing to do. And when I look for reflection of my gift, I do find it. One of the great thing about having a low-traffic blog is that I can look at each individual visit to this blog in only a few minutes. Every day a couple of people hit the site because they searched for How to Make an Important Decision" (or some variant). And there on the first page is my best advice on the topic. If any of those readers use that information to make a better decision, they've made my world a better place!

One of the secrets of customer delight is that delight is highly correlated with surprise. People with abundance mentalities - who believe in this model of universal reflection of gifts - are thus setting themselves up to be delighted again and again! Doesn't that sound like a good life investment strategy?

No, Liz, it doesn't matter if no one seems to notice. What does matter is that we notice.

posted by Mike at 7:20 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What fun it is to have a conversation with you like this! Your thoughts are so complete and well drawn and I was with you all the way through.

When we give with an expectation is that really giving? To me that is an attempt at buying something. :)

11:50 AM  
Blogger Mike said...


A great conversation it is, and thanks for commenting! A gift with expectations really is a payment/investment.

In classic Spooky Action style, I realized halfway into the post what the second half would say, when I came to the realization that every action is an investment; and that by "living consciously" (as Steve Pavlina would say) with respect to our own expectations, we can make our lives much better!


12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, your post has been on my mind all day yesterday.
First I thought I didn't had anything to add, but allow me to give you a compliment (he, where have I heard that before ;-))?

You give more, you give a presious gift: you start the conversation and keep the conversation going.

I thought of this after another - one-sided - blog-encounter with business guys writing about how to get your blog noticed, to get more readers etc. They will never succeed in that when they don't take care of 'the gift' commenters bring them (i.e. they start a conversation, but never continue). What a wasted opportunity for them

4:42 AM  
Blogger Mike said...


Thank you so very much for your kind words (compliment cheerfully accepted)!

Anyone who forgets that blogging is about conversation is only doing themselves a disservice.

I was impressed that you managed to summarize my entire post in 5 words over at Liz's blog: "Givers always gain; receivers maybe". Now that's what I call pithy!



7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Banks are falling over themselves to lend money, at ultra-low interest rates and with no strings attached. And the private equity firms do not even need to have a good credit rating. They secure the debt they borrow on the assets of the companies they buy. With pre-determined debt interest costs, any increase in profits from reducing staff numbers, for example, goes straight to the Los Angeles business investors.

3:32 AM  

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