Give First

We live in a selfish world.

You can deny it all you like, but the way we humans are wired, we all think of ourselves first. It’s our survival instinct that drives us. We can’t really help it.

Yet, in a world where we share everything with everyone else, this selfish motive and the tendency to act for ourselves sometimes holds us back.

Recently I have been revisiting the concept of giving, and how it is very valuable to find ways to be a giver in the world.

It might not be a natural thing for humans to give first, but I have found that it is one of the simplest ways to feel a sense of joy. On top of this, it’s often one of the easiest ways to get attention, and to have people reciprocate and give you what you want.

When I was 24, I first started my executive coaching business. I had very little experience or qualification, but I was very excited to do great work and help people. 

I decided to give away my first 50 coaching sessions to anybody who was interested. I didn’t focus on who would continue as a client afterwards but instead, to give the very best value that I could in each of the sessions.

When I set this as a goal, a lot of other coaches told me I was crazy. They said I should charge for my time and create a sense of value in the prospects minds. On the one hand, they had a great point, but I also knew the incredible power that comes to you when you give first.

So I started offering sessions. I did free phone sessions, I drove an hour or more at times to meet with people to offer a free session, I did international calls at my own expense.

And guess what happened?

For the first 20 or so sessions, nothing happened. They all thanked me and told me they’d think about doing more coaching in the future.

But then somewhere around the 30th session, I had one client ask me to continue working together. I told them my full rate, and they said that was fine.

That was when I realized: by giving away all the sessions, I was gaining a lot. I was growing my experience, my confidence, my ability to provide value. Most of all I was building trust with a lot of people.

Soon, it seemed that 1 out of every 5 people I offered a free session to would agree to continue, then it became 1 out of 3, and even more often. By the time I had done the first 100 sessions for free, I had a full roster of 25 paying monthly clients, and was getting requests from people for my coaching services.

The funny thing was, those other executive coaches who had said I was crazy giving away 100 sessions were suddenly curious how I was managing to grow my coaching business!

I think this idea of giving first can work in any part of your life. 

If you give attention to people first and listen to them, people become engaged. If you give your time and talents to a project, very often you are rewarded in ways well beyond money.

When you look at a new goal you have, it can be valuable to ask who are the people you need help from to make it happen. Consider how you might give to them first. Find a way to add some value to them, and watch how much quicker your goals start to become reality.

Of course, I think it’s important not to over-give or to expect an immediate return, as that will cause people to mistrust your intentions for giving. Balance your willingness to give with a sense of patience and know that abundance is rewarded with abundance.


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