It’s crucial to give back to people in your community without expecting or getting anything in return every day. And you have to constantly and consistently give back right from the start.
Many, if not most, businesses and leaders do it the other way around. Giving and helping usually comes after success after the bills have been paid. Or it happens because there’s a marketing incentive to support others, personally or professionally.
Helping doesn’t only mean giving time or money to charity. I love helping team members, entrepreneurs, friends, and family with a hand up for no other reason than that it feels good. It could be just being a friend to someone, helping them understand where they fit in their community or company or helping them find their unique space in the world.
Instead of thinking about creating success and giving back, think about giving back to create success.
For me, giving back is about mentorship, perhaps precisely because that’s the way I was supported.
So what exactly is mentorship?
It’s not one thing. Mentorship can be a lot of things.
Most of us think about a mentor as someone who takes us under their wing because they know things we don’t. That can still be the case. A classic mentoring relationship looks a little like that, where a more experienced person gives advice and imparts wisdom to a less experienced person, either formally or informally.
In any form of mentoring, whether you’re the one with experience to share or the one looking for advice, it’s not a straight shot to getting where you want to go.
See, a mentor can’t actually solve a mentee’s problems.
What a mentor can do is help a mentee grow into the person they want to be.
Think about the support you got early in life. Think about how you looked to your mother or your favorite uncle for advice. Your best teacher at school. If they were good at what they did in helping you become the person you are today, they didn’t make your problems go away. They asked you the right questions. They pitched in when things got really hard, and helped you figure out your next step. They worked hard to make your day a little closer to best-day-ever status so that you felt good about your choices.
This is the goal of mentorship: helping people decide what journey they want to take.
I think about it as a giving circle.
Mentorship goes both ways. It gives back. Mentorship creates a relationship in which you learn from and teach each other.
More than that, mentorship creates the impetus for change in the world, making people, businesses, and communities open to new ideas through the free flow of information. Embracing relationships with other people and the mutual learning that comes with that is the foundation for everything else you need to do to make your business work.
It’s kind of the opposite of what we think of when we find a business. We’re used to hearing about competition, secret-keeping, patents, and lawsuits. We’re taught that strategy means we have to have a sustainable competitive advantage based on doing something we protect at all costs from other folks in the business world.
But I’m here to tell you this: Creating a giving circle around your business, ideas, and team makes them stronger, not weaker. Giving to others, and giving back to your community, provides you with resources, support, and strength, both internally and with your future market.
Where do you want your giving circle to start? There are three things you’ll want to do to get going.
- Choose how you’re going to mentor others. What can you do right now that will change how you interact with the people around you? What can you give? Is there something you love doing that you can share with others, even if you’re not an expert? Remember that mentorship is a two-way street, and you must be prepared to give as much as you receive.
- Choose your own mentor. How do you find a good mentor? Here are some suggestions based on my experience: Meet them on the field, as they are likely playing the same game. Attend trade shows and events, sign up for industry associations, angel networks, incubators, and accelerators. LinkedIn is also an awesome tool, but nothing beats meeting in person. Do you have a peer with whom you can partner to seek resources to help you both thrive? Is there an equivalent to a joy-filled sandwich you can offer to those around you?
- Volunteer. Make a difference outside of your success and business goals. Where can you use your skills? Where are they needed? What kind of organization or individual might benefit from your time? Or, even better, how can you determine who needs the most help? Start there.
Giving circles are important not only because it will get us somewhere in life. They also offer a high level of meaning in our work and in our daily lives. Knowing that we can give our time and effort to help others allows us to build the kind of personal autonomy we need to make choices in a more fulfilling way. When we give to others, and they reward us with their trust, we begin to trust ourselves more: to connect, experiment, and trust in return. When we can build a sense of connection with others, it’s a universal gift to ourselves. We’re also learning, in turn, how to gain the support that each of us needs to succeed.
A giving circle offers us the integration of work, support, and value creation.
Excerpted from Grow: 12 Unconventional Lessons for Becoming an Unstoppable Entrepreneur by Mike Fata (Page Two Books).
About the Author
Mike Fata is the Chief Executive Officer of Fata & Associates and the author of Grow: 12 Unconventional Lessons for Becoming an Unstoppable Entrepreneur. He is the co-Founder of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, the recipient of numerous awards, and hosts the Founder to Mentor podcast. As a 9-figure entrepreneur, certified holistic health coach, and growth coach, he motivates and inspires people to discover their authentic business passions and live their best daily.
By Mike Fata