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Redefine generosity, redefine your life

To write the book, the authors interviewed and collaborated with real-world leaders from many disciplines and industries

Photo courtesy of Dr. Nicole F. Roberts and Monte Wood
Photo courtesy of Dr. Nicole F. Roberts and Monte Wood

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Generosity — it’s a good thing. You’re not going to call me a radical for a statement like that. I’d bet a spirit of giving is somewhere in your life. We get gifts for loved ones around holidays like Christmas, donate what we can when a charitable foundation tugs the right heartstrings, and take it as a point of pride to tip waiters and waitresses above the standard.

Is our world built around generosity? Not quite. Come to think of it, what the heck is generosity, exactly? Do the examples I gave above even fit the definition?

Words are awkward and imprecise things. You and I are two out of over one billion speakers of the English language who are attaching meaning to words as we go. The more commonplace a word becomes, the less we think about it. As that happens, we diminish its power.

Generosity. Kindness. Love. These are buzzwords in today’s society. Like scented candles left burning for too long, we’ve gone nose blind to their true beauty.

When I first saw the book Generosity Wins: How and Why this Game-Changing Superpower Drives Our Success, written by renowned public health advocate Dr. Nicole F. Roberts and business leader Monte Wood, I was startled to see the word in a new context. Sure, everybody knows that generosity is good. But does it win? I was skeptical.

Little did I know I was on a path to redefining generosity and, by extension, my life.

The book sits at a cross-section between nonfiction and fiction — making it an engaging read even if you were to remove the big idea it has to share. 

To write the book, the authors interviewed and collaborated with real-world leaders from many disciplines and industries. Christopher Graves, Founder & President of Ogilvy’s Center for Behavioral Science; Leigh Steinberg, one of the most notable agents in sports history; Melissa Dawn Simkins, Founder of The She-Suite and CEO of Velvet Suite Inc.; these are just a few of the sages who show up on this journey. The framing device, which places these real conversations at the heart of a fable, is the fictional story of Emily, a young hospitality industry executive who goes on a hero’s journey to uncover the meaning and power of generosity.

The big idea is that authentic generosity is an essential key to success — discovered when we redefine the concept and restore its power in a world that doesn’t think too deeply about it. 

Look back to my examples of generosity: Christmas gifts, donations, and tips. These can all be good things, but they offer a limited viewpoint into the scope of giving. You, like me, may turn exclusively to financial acts when thinking about the concept. 

Who’s generous? Our mind goes to the philanthropist, the tither, the person who flips a couple of bucks to the guy on the corner. Again, these are good things, but we must expand our definition. Right now, it’s working at a fraction of its strength.

In Generosity Wins, the character Emily breaks outside of this paradigm. Beth McQuiston shows her how mentorship is a powerful act of generosity. Mike Kaplan reveals the generosity of putting employees in positions to succeed. Andy Hill explores the gift of authenticity and acceptance.

From this, we might get the idea that generosity is kindness. This is half right, so let’s take a step back.

Words can lose their meaning the more we use them. We diminish their scope (as explored above) while paradoxically also outkicking their coverage. As much as we have to expand our understanding of a word like generosity, we also have to restrict it. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, there’s “no fair tennis without a net.”

To author Wood, “generosity is any act of kindness, giving or support, when done with no expectation from the recipient(s).”

It’s an uplifting conviction, one that eliminates many actions I once deemed as “generous” and at the same time expands the possibilities. We can get into a cynical discussion about tax write-offs, charitable PR stunts, and social obligations, but that’s not the point. This conversation isn’t about others — It’s about you and me. 

When I’m being “generous,” am I expecting something? Do I expect something, do I want appreciation or a future return from the recipient?  Good food for thought.

So, we’ve just redefined generosity — now, how do we redefine our lives? The Generosity Wins authors have some insight to share.

“When I stopped being a CEO and began mentoring young adults, this process allowed me to come to a couple of realizations,” explains Wood. “My formula for success was helping others be successful in life and work — a spirit of generosity that evolved into a curriculum.”

“That’s when I started digging into the science behind it,” he continues. “The power of generosity was evident from the compelling studies. This led me to seek out Nicole. This is when we found a formula, a science, and wanted to share it with the world. It’s a superpower.” 

As an author, founder of Health & Human Rights Strategies, and philanthropist, Dr. Nicole F. Roberts felt for the first time that making this book had given her something where her “toolkit packed with part neuroscience and part public health doctor” could converge.

“This movement is more than the book; it’s an action plan with challenges,” she shares. “Yes, changing behavior is the hardest thing to do, but seeing people make changes is exciting and powerful. From here on out, we want generosity to talk, show, and start conversations that continue beyond us.”

Developing the ability to build this courageous muscle in both our personal and professional lives is crucial to achieving success. After all, by strengthening this trait, we are better equipped to overcome obstacles, take on new challenges, and pursue our goals with confidence and determination. We are more able to develop meaningful relationships and feel worthy of success. Becoming a generous person isn’t the only practice you will need to be successful, however it is the foundation on which most other essential practices will grow.  

“Emily is on a hero’s journey,” explains Dr. Roberts. “That’s what we want our readers to do as well. It’s about each person absorbing this information and deciding to take action for change and betterment.” 

Remember, we’re not giving with expectations from the recipient. But as it is with anything in life, we reap what we sow. If you make it your mission to give, then your path to success is bound to make the world a better place.

What would a world built around generosity look like? As more and more people redefine the concept through their reading of Generosity Wins, which is now a USA Today Best-Seller, we get closer to figuring that out.
Now, I’m going to challenge you. Head here to gift yourself a copy, or even multiple to generously gift your friends and family. From there, Dr. Roberts and Wood have designed a 30-day challenge that will reveal to you how generosity can redefine your life, as it has mine.

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Written By

Jon Stojan is a professional writer based in Wisconsin. He guides editorial teams consisting of writers across the US to help them become more skilled and diverse writers. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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