Insights + Resources

Taking Out and Putting Back

Mar 4, 2014

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” That’s a quote from a pretty intelligent guy by the name of Albert Einstein. It is tough to challenge just about anything that came out of his mind, but it’s probably even tougher to measure what one actually takes out of this world. We spend a lifetime of taking out. But can one spend a lifetime of putting back (or giving back)?

In all truth, some seemingly can. Billy Graham comes to mind first, most likely because I’m in the middle of reading his new book. He has seemingly given his entire life, and continues to do so at 95 years young. Of course there is Mother Theresa and others like her, and there are the holy Saints. Santa Claus was a saint, and he was certainly a giver! There of course are many others, some who are known worldwide for their giving and their efforts to put back, like Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah or Bono. Some are legendary like the Carnegie’s, the Rockefeller’s and the Duke’s. But what about the majority of us? Do we put back our share? Or is there such a thing as giving enough? Most of us “give what we can”, right? But is there something that limits our giving? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone asks you to give? Money.

There is no doubt that money plays a key role in enabling charities to carry out their most important missions and forward their causes to a final level of positive impact, whatever it might be. But there is also giving time, giving talent, giving resources, giving introductions to others, giving knowledge, and giving love. Sometimes the last one, ‘giving love’ is all that someone who is really in need, needs. Knowing this, doesn’t it seem a little easier to give back or put back? There truly are so many different ways to give. One just needs to spend time figuring out what way they can give, and then move forward in that direction. But before you figure out the way, maybe you should consider the why.

One of the most important steps in becoming more involved with giving back is determining your own set of core values. What moves you? What are you passionate about? If you had the money of a Bill Gates or a Rockefeller, what injustice would you look to correct, heal, or cure? It could be personal, or it could simply be something that pulls at your heart. There are opportunities aplenty. There are needs around every corner. Money aside, what could become a part of your life that could give it more meaning? Maybe it’s not everyone’s goal to put back the equivalent of what they take out, but spending time with pen and paper (or a keyboard and computer … or just an iPad) thinking of one’s truest values, is a process that can yield powerful results.

In my practice I recommend clients sit down with their children (or their parents) and discuss their family values. I ask them to make known the topic to be discussed ahead of time, so that everyone has time to consider their own personal values. Having this discussion with your family members can reveal some very emotional dialogue. One can discover so much they may otherwise never had known once a family member has passed. And sadly, it’s not a conversation that is often held in today’s too-short-on-time household. I highly encourage anyone reading this article to initiate a family values meeting, everyone will be glad you did.

Many people have experience with giving to their alma mater or their place of worship, or playing in a local charity golf tournament, but beyond that many haven’t explored his or her personal philanthropic intentions or what lie at the root of their own family values. After your personal reflection or family meeting, consider writing your own personal or family philanthropic mission statement. When one sets up a private family foundation this is probably the first step one should take. What are you really trying to accomplish in the broadest sense? What is the key mission that should be fulfilled when determining the charities for which to give?

There has been a recent debate on what is more valuable to an employer today, a job candidate with a great education, or one who can clearly demonstrate his or her character. Can you think of a better way to teach your children and help to build their character than to instill in them a personal or family values mission statement? Having one would let them focus on what they stand for, who they want to impact and why. Anyone having this at their core, and acting upon it on a regular basis however they could, would prove contagious to those around them and inspire many.

The biggest takeaway from any process that you choose, or any personal reflection time or any family meeting that bears fruit, is the mere realization of the importance of giving. In its purest sense, whatever it may be that you give, money, time, resources or love, you are giving a piece of yourself for the benefit of someone or something else. And since you are giving or putting back a part of yourself, don’t you think it’s worth the time to explore what you stand for?

As seen in Society Charlotte Magazine – January 2014 (written by Edward R. Doughty, CFP®)

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