Life Is Not a Zero Sum Game

In 2009, I participated in a writing project with my colleagues at the Creating WE Institute. We published a little book called, 42 Rules for Creating WE. The rules were short essays on life. I contributed a rule called “There is No Quid Pro Quo in WE.”

WE is built on relationships—the idea that we are all connected, and that through a WE-centric, rather than an I-centric approach, our collective wisdom grows and evolves. This kind of thinking creates stronger organizations and societies. It fosters mutual shared respect. Solid, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships are at the core of WE. Giving with no expectation of return is a great way to create these types of relationships.

This is a quid pro quo world: You do for me and I’ll do for you. While there is nothing wrong in reciprocating a good deed or a favor, there is a fundamental problem with quid pro quo. It is reactive, not proactive. Too many people adopt the attitude, “When and if you do for me, I’ll do for you.” This scarcity mentality is not conducive to creating WE or building strong relationships. When you come from a scarcity mentality, you focus on holding on to what you already have. This can prevent you from receiving what you might possibly get.

Demonstrating Good Faith

On the other hand, giving with no expectation of return comes from a proactive, abundance mentality. When you give with no expectation of return, you are demonstrating faith that the good you do will benefit others—and that good things will come back to you.

Giving with no expectation of return is ironic. I have found that the more I give, the more I receive, often from unlikely sources. But that’s not my reason for giving—and I hope it is not yours. The best reason for giving is the basic joy of making a difference in other people’s lives and in creating a WE-centric world.

I loved the old Liberty Mutual Insurance “responsibility” ads. They nailed the ideas behind creating WE—especially giving with no expectation of return. They began with someone going a little out of his or her way to do something that benefits others; picking up a piece of trash, or opening a door for someone whose hands are full. Other people observed these small gestures and went out of their way to do something for someone else. This cycle repeated several times during the ads. The message was clear. We are all better off when we help each other.

In the end, giving with no expectation of return comes down to your mentality—scarcity or abundance. If you come from a scarcity mentality, you will live by quid pro quo, and perpetuate the I-centric status quo. If you come from an abundance mentality, you will give with no expectation of return and begin to create a WE-centric world and build the kind of strong, mutually beneficial relationships that will help you create the life and career success you want and deserve.


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