I Was Lousy At Giving. How About You?
Generosity wasn’t one of comedy writer Dean Watson’s strong points, but he changed. He explains how to form the habit of giving without giving up avocado on toast.
5 October 2021
Rick Astley was wrong. Giving it up is even better than 80s music. Even when you earn an average wage, as I do.
I’m 30 years old, so make no mistake, I’m incredibly good-looking. But for a long time, there’s been an ugly side to me. Here it is.
Ready? I’ve been crap at giving. A millennial that’s lousy at giving. Could I be any more clichéd? No. The answer is no.
For a long time, I told myself I didn’t earn enough money to be generous. The 2019-20 tax year was the first year in my life I had annual earnings over NZ$30k, so there’s a little truth to that.
Excuses, excuses, excuses
However, knowing what I know now about giving and becoming good at it, I believe that's just an excuse. You know, like the 80s were for Rick Astley becoming popular.
I’m now earning just above the median New Zealand wage. And I feel a massive amount of responsibility to put this good fortune to work.
I have a giving goal and it’s this: “To develop a habit of giving when I have a normal amount of money, so that I can make a massive impact with the habit when I have an obscene amount of money.”
I hope my boss is reading this. Hi, Dave!
As a millennial, I was born to be highly sceptical of anything that doesn’t offer instant gratification. Fortunately, giving = instant gratification.
Giving is the long-lost ‘yin’ to our take-take-take ‘yang’. Giving is the act of restoring balance.
The avocado on toast every Saturday morning is a very important part of the equation. But it’s just one half of the equation.
Plum equals happiness
The first time I really started to wake up to the need to give is when I met Sierra, my partner.
I would buy her a plum and she would be so happy. If you had cut to a scene where I’d just bought her a tropical island and then cut back to the scene where I bought her a plum, her reaction would be pretty much the same. (Note: Data may be flawed as I haven’t tried the island thing yet.)
The point is, seeing the effect that giving something small can have on a person is breath-taking. Especially when it’s a juicy plum from New World.
The first step to forming the habit of giving is to grab a sheet of paper and scribble down some life goals.
One or more of these will probably fall under the theme of “Giving back”.
Imagine you’re 70 years old. Who helped you get to where you are? Who would you like to thank? Do you really have to wait until you’re 70 to give to that person or cause? Can you start today?
Next, log onto your internet banking and open a new bank account. Nickname it ‘Give’. Or ‘Plums’. Choice is yours.
Then, choose a set amount to give every week. I chose NZ$20. Just make sure it’s a sustainable amount to be giving away every week. That way, if you like how giving makes you feel after one week, you can give for a second week, then a third, then a fourth and so on.
Finally, set up a weekly auto-payment into this account from the account you get paid into. The amount is what you chose before. So, every week NZ$20 goes into my ‘Give’ account.
From there, I just search out causes or individuals doing cool things that inspire me.
As a comedy writer who knows how tough it is to make a living in that profession, I’ve just been reaching out to people putting on funny local comedy shows who’ve been through especially tough times due to Covid, and giving to them.
Surprise equals success
The grateful and surprised responses I receive have taught me that you don’t need to wait until you’re old, rich, and into America’s Cup sailing to have an impact with giving.
If you’re struggling to think of who to give to, pay off your Phantom Debts. These are debts that are not really debts, but they haunt you anyway.
I’ve vanquished one phantom debt already – paying back my ex for a month of rent from many moons ago.
I have one more phantom debt to go – paying back my parents the NZ$6.5k they put into my post-school education. Twenty dollars at a time, I’ll get there.
Some people choose to feel close to their overseas family by talking to them on Zoom. I choose to feel close to my family by paying off debts that aren’t even debts.
Start with $20
Forming the habit of giving is easy and it will make you feel as happy as a plum. Start with NZ$20 and if you like the feeling, do it again the next week.
Do not judge your success at giving based on how much you give. Base it on whether you can form the habit.
Can you do it every week? For a month? For a year? For five years? For the length of Rick Astley’s career? Maybe not the last one.
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