Lessons on working for free

June 23 2014

For almost one year, I’ve volunteered my time serving a group of people I’ve grown to care for immensely. While I’ve sacrificed a lot, I’ve been granted much more in return. Some key takeaways:

1. Let excitement be your guide.

Excitement is an internal barometer letting you know you’re on track. If you’re not excited to get to work, you’re in the wrong place.

There was a time I had to coax myself out of bed in the morning. I was bored, frustrated, unchallenged, disenchanted. After I began placing myself in environments that made me feel valued and appreciated, a train engine powered my days. Clocking hours no longer mattered, and my worth became less about the money I was making and more about the contribution I was adding to the world around me.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

It’s impossible have all the answers. Pretending you do so only prevents you from building relationships and trusted communities. Questions – no matter how obvious they may seem – not only provide information but also serve as gateway to meaningful connections. Asking for help allows others the opportunity to teach you about their world and their way of doing things. If you’re afraid to ask, you can bank on missing out.

3. Give, and you’ll be taken care of.

Decisions can be made from one of two places: scarcity or abundance.

A scarcity mentality is restricted to a finite amount of resources. The underlying emotion is fear. What if there isn’t enough, what if I give and there’s nothing left for me?

Abundant thinking, however, evolves from a place of trust, faith, and confidence. There is always enough; in fact, there is more than enough. Giving becomes less of a sacrifice and more of a responsibility to do what’s right — a pleasure.

I used to think a lot about what I didn’t have. In hindsight, I prevented myself from becoming who I wanted to be. When I started to concentrate on what I do have, I gave more. I cared less about what was lacking and more about using my gifts in a way that mattered.

4. Worry less (it paralyzes you)!

Worrying serves no one. It’s a black hole, a basket collecting your best ideas and strongest intentions. Anxiety has stopped me from solidifying friendships, initiating projects, finishing goals. I’ve found myself slave to an endless chain of insecurity about my worth, capability, value, productivity, and possibility. Not beneficial. Not fun.

The irony is this: when I gave more, I was given more. Even though I haven’t received a paycheck, I’ve been taken care of — there’s a roof over my head, food to eat, people to cheer me on. I’ve received introductions to incredibly accomplished individuals and have found greater depth in my relationships.

Yes, due-diligence is required to develop plans and take action. But after you’ve put in your work, believe in yourself and the purity of your intentions. Your efforts will pay off.