One Simple Act of Generosity

Be A Link In the Chain

I want to share a powerful story with you that had great impact on me recently. It really got me thinking about this season, the season of giving, and how it can bring together people of all kinds, regardless of their backgrounds or economic status.

When I ordered coffee at my local drive-thru recently, a stranger in the car ahead of me generously paid for my coffee drink.

I was so touched that on the spur of the moment, I did the same for the person in line behind me. When I drove up to the cashier, the barrista leaned out the window and told me that I was the 40th person in-a-row to pay it forward!

Of course, “pay it forward” is the idea of repaying a good deed by doing good for others instead of for the original person. It’s a simple enough concept, but it’s so seldom seen these days.

Hundreds Changing Hands.

In this case, that same couple bucks was turned to do the good work of more than a hundred dollars. The small gesture made a difference for at least 40 people. Who knows how far the chain extended that day? After all, there’s no telling what happened after I drove away from the coffee stand.

Though drive-thru coffee may not be your cup of tea, you can still use this idea to make life a little better for someone else. Simply extend a bit of kindness with no strings on it. For centuries, people have been doing just that for friends and strangers alike.

Where Do Kind Acts Come From?

A lot of people mistakenly think this idea started with the Hollywood film Pay It Forward from the year 2000. The movie was immensely popular, about a young boy and his big idea to change the world through simple acts of kindness. The movie topped out at #4 at the box office and netted $55 million worldwide at the box office, but it went on to make big ripples around the globe.

To trace the movie’s plot to its source, you’ll find that the screenplay was adapted from a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. But the concept didn’t start with her. You’d have to go farther up the chain than that to find the idea’s origins.

Back in 1980, “pay it forward” showed up in a special edition Marvel comic that teamed Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk. The story traced the path of a $5 bill from a loan by a retiree to someone down on his luck, following the five-spot’s round-about route, returning to the elderly man by way of the two superheroes.

But “pay it forward” didn’t start with Marvel Comics either. An author named Lily Hardy Hammond wrote about the idea in her book In the Garden of Delight, published in 1916. She said, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.” Even a hundred years ago, the idea wasn’t new.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an essay in 1841 called “Compensation.” He said, “The benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”

Still, this isn’t the beginning of the chain. Ben Franklin proposed the “pay it forward” idea in a letter in April 1784. He told a friend, “When you meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation… I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress.”

Would you be the Knave? Perish the thought.

From Stage to Cinema in 2000 Years

You might think that someone as smart and influential as Benjamin Franklin originated the “pay it forward” idea. It sure sounds like him. In reality, the idea predates modern civilization, making its first appearance (that we know of) in Ancient Greece.

The concept was the key to the plot of a classic Greek comedy, dating back to 317 BC. The play was called The Grouch (okay, it was called Dyskolos), written by someone named Menander. The script was lost for centuries and rediscovered in 1957.

I’m sure in the future some Broadway director will turn the ancient play into a big budget action film, spawning a line of polyethylene superhero figures, a comic book, and maybe a series of theme park rides. For the time being, it’s just a nice story about a grouch whose life is touched by an act of kindness.

Now, it seems to me I’ve seen something like this before. Didn’t I? Ah yes, I think it was my hometown stage production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Maybe this year I’ll buy a couple extra tickets and give them to those two young adults in line behind me… and ask them why they keep calling me “Auntie”.

6 Ways to Build an Effective Project Team

Of all the hats that a project manager wears, building a team is an important one. It is only with an effective team that we are able to drive the project through to completion.  But, there are myriads of variables that go into making up an effective team. Some variables you have control over, most you don’t.

It’s up to you as a project manager to take each and every opportunity you have to build the team with those areas that you can control. The following 6 Cs would be a good starting point for you to pull together an effective team:

Communication – Communication is critical to building an effective team. Sharing thoughts, ideas and real -time information is a must for team members and stakeholders coming into a team. We communicate mainly through speaking, writing, but also with signs like the emoticons used on mobile devices.

Collaboration – Collaboration is useful in the creation, development and delivery of a solution, product or service.  All team members need to be jointly involved in giving information and actually delivering the result.  The goal is not to have everyone shake their head ‘yes’ and agree with you, but rather to provide honest and insightful feedback on what can be done to make things better.

Cooperation – Cooperation is important to reaching an end goal. When everyone is agreeably assisting each other, we go a lot further than if we are just working alone or in our silos. This is a challenging area as some team members would rather work alone. It’s your responsibility to pull them into the group so they can both contribute and benefit from those around them. Learn More »

Increasing Your Team’s Sense of Fulfillment at Work

By David Ryback, Ph.D.

What are some specific steps to accomplish a sense of fulfillment or satisfaction that will lead to improved bottom-line results?  And, more to the point, how does a boss encourage his or her team to overcome what initially seems like a paradox—assuring good output while at the same time maintaining personal meaning and satisfaction on everyone’s part?  If you’re responsible for a team and you want to accomplish this, here are some recommendations:

* Make sure all team members under you get the sense of how you appreciate their work.  One way is by communicating a sense of the big picture. Without regular feedback as to its place in the larger scheme, work could begin to take on a sense of drudgery.

* Remember to treat each of your team members with the courtesy of asking about his or her family.  Nothing else with so little effort will go as far to make them feel part of the organization.  They’ll go from feeling like numbers to feeling recognized as the human beings they are.  At the same time, keep your antennae up for the possibility that some people like to keep their business and personal lives separate.  Don’t paint all individuals with the same broad strokes.

* Try to find positive incidents to compliment your staff members rather that limiting your feedback to correct mistakes.  More than anything else, research in psychology has taught us that rewarding good behavior is much more effective than punishing mistakes. Learn More »

The Insatiable Male. Part 1

By Bob Rausch, Ph.D.

For the past 28 years I have been in the business of helping people solve their problems. During this time, I have seen literally hundreds of people however; one type of person has captivated my interest – the insatiable male. I continue to be intrigued by these individuals for two reasons. First of all, the more coaching and consulting I do the more insatiable males I discover. Secondly, most insatiable males feel trapped and are looking for a way to satisfaction.

Insatiable males are men from all walks of life. They are hard-working individuals who strive to make the American dream come true. Many of them have achieved some degree of outward success.

Whatever degree of success it has not brought them the contentment or the satisfaction they expected. They are diligent and industrious individuals who need to excel and to “prove” they can be successful. However, their results lead to frustration and stress instead of satisfaction. They feel inadequate in spite of numerous accomplishments. Many feel guilty because they have devoted so much of their life to work and neglecting family involvement.

These men want change in their lives but can’t pinpoint where change has to take place. Most of them say they feel trapped or on a treadmill with no way off. For them, there’s never enough time, sex, energy, accomplishments, money, or love. Learn More »

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