I Hate That I Hate Volunteering

Michelle Hartney, Jenny

I’ve served thanksgiving dinner at homeless shelters. I’ve wrapped presents for poor kids at Christmas. I spent a summer in Costa Rica building houses.

I’ve volunteered at various spots like that over the years here and there, but never consistently. I’ve always wanted to give back, but I’ll admit I’ve never really enjoyed the actual task of doing it, and I’ve always felt pretty crappy about that.

Then, over the last five years as I built my business, I’ve felt waves of guilt that I haven’t had time—or haven’t made the time—to volunteer. To me, giving back means spending your time helping people less fortunate than you, and those are usually poor children or homeless people.

But what I learned recently is that’s not the only way to give back, and sometimes it’s the most selfish way to help others.

I own a business. I get paid $300+/hour to help people build their businesses and make them more profitable. I’ve had clients tell me that after an hour conversation, they made $3,000 in the next week based solely on my advice.

This is not to brag, it’s to demonstrate that I can create a lot of value in a short amount of time. So even though it might look like I’m a do-gooder playing with unprivileged kids, that’s not the best way for me to help this world.

Recently, I met a brilliant young woman named Dori Inoa. Born and raised in Washington Heights, she definitely didn’t come from privilege. But her parents must have planted the seed of motivation in her because she applied for, and took advantage of, every opportunity she saw.

She went to boarding school in Ithaca on a merit scholarship. After that she went on scholarship to Wesleyan University (coincidentally my alma mater as well!) and from there landed a prestigious job working at Deloitte. This girl is fire.

When I met her a few months ago, she was in transition. She had just left her job at Deloitte and wanted to do more meaningful work. She said she was so thankful for all the help she had received growing up, and the opportunities afforded her by a number of different organizations, that she wanted to help others from her community access the same opportunities.

I was incredibly inspired by this, but at first I felt a twinge of jealousy. Wow, this woman’s got heart. What’s wrong with me?! Why aren’t I so naturally passionate about helping others?!

But then I realized my passion is about helping others, it just looks different. It’s about helping people build profitable businesses in a smart, strategic way so they can achieve freedom. That’s what gets me up each day.

And she needed my help. She had lots of ideas, too many ideas, and needed help getting things going.

And then I realized this was my opportunity. If I wanted to give back, I needed to do it doing what I do best. If I gave back using my high-value skills, I would generate the greatest impact I could on the world. Maximizing results? That gets me excited.

And one way I could do this was to help Dori build her dream. I didn’t need to work one on one with the people I wanted to help. I needed to work with someone like Dori. If I can help her build her businesses and organizations in an effective way, I will help so many more people at once. If I want to create massive change, and not just make myself feel like I’m giving back, then I need to do what I do best. I need to take my highest value skills and direct them in a way that they produce results that I want to see. I don’t have to be the one serving the dinner.

Let me put it another way: it would be more beneficial to the world if I got paid $300 for an hour of consulting, and then donated that money to a non profit who could use to to hire 30 hours of $10/hour labor, than it would be for me to spend an hour serving meals at a homeless shelter.

In the Dori situation, not only can I produce $300/hour worth of value, I can potentially 10x that result. Just because someone pays me $300 for an hour doesn’t mean I produced $300 in value. In the client above, if my time allowed the person to produce $3,000 that they wouldn’t have produced otherwise, then I actually produced $3,000 in value.

That’s what I see for Dori. My time will have an exponential effect on the world by sharing what I know with a go-getter like her. And that’s definitely something I can jump out of bed for each day.

P.S. The first step in Dori’s strategy is to create a self sustaining consulting practice helping people with their next career move. If you know someone who hates their job and either thinks they want to leave, or knows they want to leave, send them her website (that she built herself taking our Brandup Bootcamp!): DumpYourJob.com.

One thought on “I Hate That I Hate Volunteering

  1. cAN WE please dispense with the term “giving back”? Why does everybody say that now, instead of just “giving”? A successful business isn’t “given” anything that it needs to give “back.” It’s providing goods and services that the public willingly exchanges for money. The public isn’t giving you charity, so there’s nothing to give “back.” philanthropy is great but this term is really getting on my nerves.

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