I used to get really frustrated when I would hold a door open for someone and they wouldn’t say thank you. Or they would cruise right past me without acknowledging me in some way. I mean, after all, I’d held the door open for them. What kind of terrible person wouldn’t say thank you when someone held a door open for them. But then I started to think more and more about why I was holding door open for people and my feelings changed. What I came to realize was that I was holding doors open because I wanted people to say “thank you”. I was holding doors open because I wanted people to nod and smile and be so happy that I helped them out. I wasn’t holding the door for other people. I was holding the door open for me. And that’s when everything changed.
Over the last several years I’ve begun to realize that at the core, most of us have it pretty good. I might not be able to afford every toy that I want and I might not drive the exact car that I want. But I have a car. And I have a house. We get to eat good food and we’re not cold (although my wife likes to keep the house a little cooler than I’d prefer). We’ve got it pretty good. The more that I realize how good I have it, the more I realize that gap between those that do and those that don’t. So I decided to try to fix it.
A lot of people are defensive of their knowledge and skills. They believe that by sharing what they know, they’ll empower their competition. I’ve written before that most of us have a lot less competition than we think and I’d like to reiterate that point. I’ll answer any question that anyone has on any subject that I can. Whether they want to talk writing or web development or branding or social media management, I will answer any question that anyone has. The fact is that I’m confident in what I do. Not cocky. There are those far better than me at pretty much everything that I do. But I know that I have a set of skills and an attitude that make me successful. If you don’t believe in yourself, that’s step one.
But assuming that you do believe in yourself, share what you know. By strengthening the community around you, you’re building a support network. Many of my clients have come to me because they’ve been referred by those I’ve mentored. I’m not saying that you provide hours and hours of instruction to every one, all the time. At some point you’ve gotta make that cheddar, but my point is that if you think back, you can probably think of a few people that helped you. It may have been an instructor who went above and beyond, or another artist who helped you master some technique you’d been struggling. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know that someone will look back on their career and count you as that inspiration?
There are an infinite number of people and organizations that need help. Infinite. As in a lot. It’s hard to know where to even start honestly. But last year I became involved with an organization called The Community Corps. It’s an incredible concept. Basically, they match skilled volunteers with organizations that need help. You see, charities want really pretty websites too, but they can’t always afford thousands of dollars for a designer. And charities need to push their agenda via social media too but they can’t always afford to pay a marketing firm thousands of dollars to put together and implement a social media strategy. That’s where you come in.
You get to browse through a selection of volunteer positions in a variety of categories until you find something that you think you can help out with. Community Corps connects you with the organization and you’re off. You provide feedback to the Community Corps as the projects progresses and when it’s done, it’s done and you go find a new project.
It’s awesome. In addition to doing something good for people it provides you an opportunity to do practice your craft and honestly, it allows you the chance to be a little more artistic than you’re sometimes able to be with traditional clients. Not always (as I’ve learned) but sometimes.
Think Outside The Box
If the right opportunities haven’t presented themselves to you, go make them happen. Literally nothing is stopping you from going out there and doing something cool. Maybe it’s just creating some cool snail mail and sending it to people around Christmas time (Thanks Paige). Maybe you’ve come up with a cool project for your community and you decide to build a website and make it happen. If you’re a web designer, there’s NOTHING stopping you from buying a domain and doing something cool with it.
Recently I was approached by someone from an organization I’m volunteering with. He wants to start a charity. He had a great idea and incredible motivation, but he wanted someone to write some content. I said yes before he could ask. Since that point I’ve gone on to act as a sounding board for the project and while it’s still his baby, apparently I do get some weekend visitation rights.
Here’s my point. You’re incredibly talented. I don’t know at what, but you are. Maybe it’s the thing you get paid to do and maybe it’s the thing that you’ll never get paid to do. But doing what you love for people that could use some love is not only the right thing to do, but it feels really good.
Now go hold a door open.