I don’t know why, but my mind has been on the relationship between relative success in life and how willing a person is to share or be stingy with what they have to offer the world. I think there are positives and negatives to both, and I know where I fall — but I wanted to share these musings just to see what others thought.
If You Choose to Share…
When I talk about sharing, I’m referring to all of it. Sharing your time, your energy, your talents, your money, thoughts, resources, hopes, fears, solutions, passion, you name it — you share it. The thing about those who share is that they choose to do so with the world around them at large as an expression of some set of a deep-rooted belief that it’s to everyone’s benefit.
“I’m sharing because I know that it might help someone out there.”
“I’m sharing so that no one has to go through what I went through.”
“I’m sharing because there are people who are less fortunate.”
“I’m sharing because when you die, you can’t take it with you – so you might as well benefit others.”
The list goes on.
I have heard some remixed version of that sentiment from every sharer I know. And, full-disclosure, most of the successful people I know (not all) chose the route of the sharer in their life. They happily network and expand with anyone willing to receive what they have to share, expecting nothing in return. The reward for them is in sharing and potentially witnessing the future outcome of the seeds they planted everywhere, through their contributions, beginning to bear fruit.
Some people share just so that they can see others smile. Still, at the end of the day – even this is rooted in that deep-rooted belief that someone external to them will benefit.
The pros to this are plentiful, and nothing too surprising. Those who share normally develop good reputations one way or another. Sharers likely develop strong social networks with a list of people who are willing to do them favors. Sharers typically develop lots of social capital and goodwill and are normally seen as “good people” (in quotes because “good” is very subjective). Sharers normally don’t have any problems finding employment because they know someone who knows someone (and so on). And the most important thing, from what I’ve seen, is that most of the time – sharers are pretty happy.
All of that is great, but you also have to factor in the cons that people don’t really talk about as much in the world of sharers. Some may think that sharers have ulterior motives. Others may feel like all of the sharing is going on as a way of seeking attention. People may try to take advantage of a sharer’s efforts. A person who shares may be giving up potential monetary gain in places where others would turn a profit for something valuable. Some may judge a sharer because they don’t agree that they should lend their talents to an unsavory association that they may have chosen to share with. This list goes on as well, and yeah – most of the cons are from the world around the person choosing to share.
But that’s the reality of it. You may not get rich, but you’ll likely feel very fulfilled. Sharing isn’t for everyone, though. There is another path that you can choose to take, so let’s roll into that one.
If You Choose to be Stingy…
You may not want to volunteer. You may not want to make donations. You may not want to mentor anyone. You may not even want to speak your mind or TRY to find the time to do whatever else isn’t personally benefitting you. A lot of “I’d rather not” could be happening in your life mixed with a sprinkle of “I don’t want to”.
If this is how a lot of your responses to opportunities to share go, you’re on the Stingy Path.
A lot of society knocks those who choose to be stingy, but I honestly don’t. Sharing isn’t for everyone. Some people feel awkward sharing – some honestly think it’s a little entitled to think that the world wants your sharing (seriously). Whatever their reasoning is, there are those who live in a world of “me first” vs. trying to benefit everyone – and they can become very successful in their own right.
If I had to take a stab at what I think the core motivation is for being stingy throughout your life, I’d say it’s rooted in some sense of internal or externally-focused competition or comparison to benefitting a personal standard.
Hear me out.
“I don’t have time for that (compared to something that I believe is more valuable).”
“I don’t want to do that (because I don’t see the benefit in it for me, and if I’m not benefiting myself – I’m falling behind).”
“I don’t have to do anything (because why should I – no one helped me, so why would I help someone?).”
I promise I’m not trying to shit on stingy people in the sentences above, and I know that I’m assuming a lot by completing those sentences with the parentheticals. But… If it’s not that, I don’t know what else it could be at the end of the day.
Whether the standard in their mind is one set by an external example or one that is internal and totally arbitrary, it guides them. They compare everything to that standard. Everything competes with that standard. And if something is outside of that set of standards, it is of no interest to the stingy individual.
And they have a right to do that. I know that’s a hot take to some, but if someone doesn’t want to share what they have — good or bad — if it’s theirs, that’s their right. This holds true for their time, their energy, their talents, their money, their thoughts, resources, hopes, fears, solutions, passion, you name it — they can be stingy with it. And it isn’t always a barrier.
In fact, some would say one of the pros of that stingy nature could be that it leads to competitive advantage(s) because they aren’t sharing the secret sauce. Another advantage of being stingy is that you’ll have way more time to use as you see fit. Stingy people tend to not over-commit or stretch themselves too thin. They also don’t feel as much weight from social obligations. There is something freeing in how stingy people choose to live.
Sure, as listing off the cons – you may not make as many friends. Your stinginess may bar you opportunities you otherwise would’ve had, or at least make them more difficult to attain. Being stingy may leave you with plenty of material accumulation in life, but not many emotional ties (and that may be totally fine). Stinginess can lead to a negative social reputation for many reasons, but if you’re stingy – you honestly probably don’t care about that.
Some people view stingy people as selfish, I view them as “motivated by something that doesn’t benefit everyone.” Some people exclusively look out for their family and friends for instance. Are they being selfish?
The stingy worldview is hard to talk about because a lot of people may not view the advantages of being stingy as positives, but I feel like some can relate (especially introverts).
The Path I Choose
Being 100% honest with myself, I am someone who oscillates between the two for the sake of my sanity. I honestly see the pros of both, so I do both. And no, not at a half measure – I tend to go all-in on things. So, when I’m in sharing mode – the world knows. I connect people who otherwise wouldn’t have been connected (not in that exact moment, anyway). I volunteer regularly. I mentor and make donations and some other sacrifices.
But, I view that as me doing my part to try to make the world a little bit better. Yes, I do feel like I owe the world something, but I also feel like I owe myself a bit in this life as well.
So, I’m stingy about some things. For instance, I’ve never donated blood. Haha – I don’t know why, but I just have this thing in my head about that being MINE unless I pass it on to some kids someday. I may not always choose to offer up my opinion. I tell people “no, I’d rather not” A LOT.
If I had to throw percentages at it, I’d say I’m 70% sharer and 30% stingy.
I have decided to be honest with myself about my motivations for doing things and really interrogate my reason(s) for electing to contribute or not contribute. And I understand that life happens and has put people in different positions. Some people don’t share because they don’t want to, and some don’t share because they can’t. Some people share because they’ve led privileged lives, and some share out of a sense of obligation (good or bad).
There are people who fully commit to one side vs. the other, and plenty of them have crashed and burned and/or done very well based on either path.
You will hear from some that there is a right answer on this one, but I think there’s a balance that should be struck.
My advice to those out there seriously thinking about this would be to live based on what you’re comfortable with while pushing further into whatever side you see as more valuable morally.
For example, I personally strive to be about 85% sharer and 15% stingy.
Philosophy aside – this ultimately comes down to the fact that when I die, I’d rather not be remembered as stingy. I want to “do good” and I think I can do more of that by sharing vs. keeping it to myself, but I’m also human and I know that having a few stingy habits isn’t the worst thing in the world.