Episode: Generosity Pays

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Michael Hyatt: Parents go back and forth on what they should tell their kids about Santa Claus, but maybe they should try the truth. He really existed. He came from what is now the nation of Turkey, and his real-life generosity 1,700 years ago still inspires generosity today. We call Santa “Saint Nick” for a reason. Nicholas was born around AD 280 in the maritime city of Patara and spent much of his life in the coastal town of Myra. He was a wealthy man, orphaned at a young age, who became a religious leader deeply involved in the life of the church. He went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was eventually ordained a bishop.

Megan Hyatt Miller: As far as saints go, he’s wildly popular. The St. Nicholas Center lists 390 churches in America alone that are named for him, and there are churches all around the world named after Saint Nick, including one where I worshiped in Uganda, the Orthodox cathedral in Kampala. Because Nicholas was and is so popular, he has attracted a lot of piousness over the centuries, and I’m not just talking about flying reindeer with red noses.

One story about Nicholas probably does have a grain of historical truth, though. There are many different versions of it, but here’s the gist. An unlucky widower had three daughters. Without money for dowries, he knew no one would marry the girls, which was a big problem in those days.

Michael: Options were few. I know it sounds crazy now, but the man decided to sell his youngest daughter into slavery to pay the dowry for the oldest daughter. Somehow Nicholas found out and decided to help. He knew the poor man was proud and wouldn’t accept a gift, so he tossed a bag of gold through an open window. Over the next two years, he did it again on the same date, and then again.

The third time, the poor man was waiting up to catch Nicholas in the act. At this point, his pride was no longer an issue. The man was crying. He thanked Nicholas for taking care of his daughters. Modestly, Nicholas said the money ultimately came not from him but from God. The man then went out and told everyone who would listen about Nicholas’ generosity, even though Nicholas told him not to.

Megan: Parts of the story are embellished. In one version, Nicholas throws the money through the chimney, and it lands in the girls’ stockings drying by the fire. That’s where we get our modern idea about Santa climbing down the chimney, stuffing stockings on the mantelpiece. The trouble is they didn’t even have chimneys like that in Nicholas’ day.

Still, embellishments aside, Nicholas has been associated with generosity ever since. Nowadays, Christmas is when we exchange gifts in December, but for many centuries in much of the world people gave gifts on Nicholas’ religious feast day, which is December 6. So it’s only fair when we switched to Christmas that we brought the patron saint of generosity along for the sleigh ride.

Michael: But generosity isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing. It’s best to think of generosity as a habit or a lifestyle, and as Notre Dame researchers Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson found, it’s paradoxical. Those who give, they say, receive back in return. Smith and Davidson took five standard measures of well-being: happiness, bodily health, purpose in living, avoidance of depression, and interest in personal growth.

Then they looked at several different kinds of generosity, including volunteering time and giving money. They found a significant correlation between giving and all five measures of well-being, and it’s more than correlation. Smith and Davidson found a causal relationship too. They say as a result of the generous practices themselves, those who live more generous lives also tend to enjoy greater well-being in life.

Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work, succeed at life, and lead with confidence. In this episode, we’re going to explore why generosity pays, not just for the person receiving it but also for the person offering it.

Megan: As the Smith and Davidson work shows, there are many dimensions to generosity, but today we’re talking about three benefits that would be of special interest to leaders. All right, Dad. Are you ready to talk about the first one?

Michael: Yeah, let’s do it. The first benefit for generous leaders is that it builds a strong team. Early in my career, I applied for the role of a marketing director for a small publishing company. The only problem was I didn’t have any marketing experience. Now I needed to get paid, I wanted to get paid $30,000. This was a long, long time ago.

My prospective boss said, “Well, gee. You don’t really have any experience. I’m not 100 percent sure you could do the job. How about if I pay you $27,000, and at the end of 90 days, if you’ve really performed, then I’ll go ahead and give you the raise up to $30,000?” I said, “Okay, fair enough.” So I worked unbelievably hard. I got there early in the morning. I’m talking 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. I stayed late, studied, worked my you-know-what off.

At the end of the 90-day period, he called me up to his office and said, “Look, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you’ve killed it. You’ve exceeded my expectations. You’re totally deserving of this raise, but here’s the problem. Our parent company has put a company-wide freeze on all their subsidiary companies, so I can’t give you the raise. My hands are tied.”

Well, I was devastated, because not only did I deserve the raise…I mean, he had admitted I did…but I was devastated because I really needed the money. So I went home. I talked with Gail, and she said, “Look, honey. There’s nothing you can do. Let’s just have a good attitude and keep working hard and just trust that it’s all going to work out.” So that’s exactly what I did.

The next day he called me back into his office and said, “Sit down. I need to talk to you.” He said, “My wife and I talked about this, and we’ve decided that I actually made the commitment. The commitment didn’t come from the company; it came from me, and I want to give you the $3,000.” So he hands me a check written on his personal account for $3,000.

Now how do you think that kind of generosity impacted me? He didn’t intend it this way, but that bought my loyalty. I was so committed to him from that point forward. In fact, that was the beginning of what became a 17-year relationship. He’s still, to this day, one of my very best friends.

One of the reasons this works (and the research shows this) is that generosity fuels workplace performance and workplace loyalty. In one study, researchers looked at the amount of social support people give at the office. Get this. We’re talking about the willingness to help teammates complete a project, offer encouragement…that sort of thing.

They labeled people who gave the most social support work altruists. Remember that. The least generous they called work isolators, which is kind of a euphemism for the stingy ones. The altruists were more than 20 times as likely as isolators to help a teammate finish a project. That’s how they defined it. Shawn Achor, reporting on the study for Harvard Business Review, said only 2 percent of work isolators help others with their work.

Megan: Wow. That is a staggering result. This kind of generosity affects performance in other ways too. For instance, 5 out of 10 altruists get along extremely well with coworkers, but just 2 in 10 of the isolators do.

Michael: Not surprising, in a sense.

Megan: It’s not surprising. The other thing is that isolators are disengaged at work. Workplace engagement, as we all know, is a big problem. In fact, it’s bigger than I even realized. Apparently, only 33 percent of the US workforce feels engaged at work. Thirty-three percent!

Michael: I know. What about the other 67 percent?

Megan: Oh my gosh. There’s a huge opportunity there for leaders, that’s for sure. But guess who overrepresented in the underperformer category?

Michael: Yep.

Megan: That’s right. Achor and his fellow researchers found that just 5 percent of the isolators were engaged at work. On the other hand, the altruists were about 10 times as likely to be highly engaged.

Michael: That’s pretty amazing. That’s a big discrepancy. So two final measures of the difference between the generous and the ungenerous when it comes to performance are promotions and income.

Megan: This is where it gets interesting.

Michael: It is. Get this. Achor said only 7 percent of selfish isolators have received a promotion in the last year. Selfishness does not pay. Meanwhile, altruists were six times more likely to receive a promotion. Another researcher, Arthur Brooks, studied the effect of generosity on income based on data from over 30,000 Americans. This is even more compelling.

For every dollar in extra income, Americans gave 14 cents. So, not that much. But what about the other direction? It turned out for every dollar given people’s pay went up as much as $3.75. I want to say that again, because it’s a profound statistic. For every dollar people gave, people’s pay went up as much as $3.75, and this was a sampling of 30,000 people, so this is not a fluke or an anomaly; this is statistically real.

Megan: This is almost a four-to-one ROI. I don’t know a businessperson in the world who wouldn’t take that every day of the week.

Michael: Generosity pays. Generous people perform better at work, and they see the returns in higher positions and better pay, and that only happens because they’re making a major positive impact on their teams.

Megan: Love that. Generosity is also a powerful retention strategy.

Michael: Yeah, just one question. Can you share a bit about how we aim to practice generosity with our own team?

Megan: Yeah, it’s something we’re really thoughtful about. A couple of things. First, we have an annual team retreat. In the past we have taken our entire team on a cruise in January every year, and this kind of has a twofold purpose. First, we get to share our vision for the year, but more importantly, it’s a time when we just get to bless our team.

We get to provide a vacation that people might not take on their own, and they get to do it with all of the people they work with. It’s a real morale-building, connection-building experience that’s honestly generous. It’s not something we’re required to provide. We have great benefits elsewhere in the company, but it’s just something we do that we feel like is fun, and it absolutely pays off.

Michael: I’m starting to get really excited about it, because it’s only a few weeks away.

Megan: I know. We’re not going on a cruise this year, but we’re equally excited. The other thing we do is that we have an unlimited PTO policy. This is very rare in today’s job world. It’s pretty uncommon that you would have a great PTO package right out of the gate. You usually have to earn your way into that. We feel like our people, the kind of people we hire are self-managing enough that we let them take as much PTO as they need. They obviously have to have approval for that to make sure it works with the larger schedule, but it has been fantastic.

The final thing we do is we have an uncapped bonus plan. That means our bonuses are based on the performance of the company, but if we succeed our performance targets, then bonuses go up along with the performance, which we find puts us on the same side of the table as our team members and really motivates people, and instead of resenting when we have new initiatives or some big thing we’re working on, it feels like we’re all working on it together because we’ve been generous and shared the profits with our team.

Michael: As you can imagine, with that kind of generosity we have very little employee turnover. So it’s hard to get into our company, but people don’t leave. They get here, and they want to stay.

Megan: Absolutely. Part of that, though, and I think this is something employers and leaders have to consider, is it is costly in the sense that you’re making an investment when you decide to do those kinds of things for the sake of retention. As a business owner, when you think about that, do you feel like the cost is justified?

Michael: Yeah, totally. Think of it this way. It’s cheaper to appreciate the existing talent you have and keep them on board than to try to find new people. It’s not just because I’m altruistic as a business owner, but I think it makes good business sense too. It’s a worthwhile investment.

Megan: I agree. Another important point here is that generosity as a leader is an important model to those you’re leading on how to approach your customers and serve them. This is actually one of my favorite benefits. If you want your team to be generous with your customers, you have to show them how it’s done, and conversely, if you’re stingy with your team, you’d better believe they’re going to be stingy with your customers. How many times have you seen that over and over and over again? This is one of those things you have to be very careful and very intentional about what you’re doing.

Michael: You do, because it really is going to show your team or demonstrate to your team how to treat your customers. Speaking of that, let’s talk about why it’s important to practice generosity with our customers. The second benefit for generous leaders is that it creates a loyal customer base. Generosity wows your tribe. We’ve seen this over and over again.

Wow is all about exceeding expectations. If you just aim for customer satisfaction, that’s not a high enough standard in today’s world. Satisfied customers are going to still be on the lookout for somebody who’s going to wow them, so you have to wow them, and you have to exceed their expectations to do so. That’s what makes an impression.

Megan: I think that’s totally right. It reminds me of a date night Joel and I went on recently. We don’t go out to movies very often. We have young kids, and they don’t always do very well with a babysitter, but that’s changing, so we decided to try it. We were going to go see a movie. We haven’t been to our local theater in a while. The last time we were there, honestly, it was kind of dingy. The Junior Mints are great, but other than that…

Michael: Kind of dirty.

Megan: It’s kind of gross and all of those things. So we went to our old movie theater, but it had been renovated. We went into the grown-up side of the movie theater. Apparently there are now two sides, and the grown-up side had a whole restaurant. It had a bar where you had servers who would come to you and take your order and that kind of thing. It had recliners that were electric recliners.

It was incredible. I got my Junior Mints delivered to me in my seat, which was pretty exciting. I didn’t have to wait in the long concession line. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I was reconciled to a dingy movie theater, and it turned out to be a totally wow experience. Consequently, we just went to another movie the other night, and we’re going to keep going back, because it was great.

Michael: Is this the Thoroughbred theater?

Megan: It is. Yeah.

Michael: Man, that tells you how long it has been since I’ve been to a movie, because we typically watch them at home. But wow. I have to try that out. Junior Mints delivered to your chair.

Megan: What will it be next?

Michael: Yeah, I know. Well, this is also why Apple has one of the most loyal tribes anywhere, because they’re extraordinarily generous. I didn’t think about this until right now, but tell the story of you losing your iPhone in the lake when you were fishing.

Megan: Last year I was fishing with my kids at the lake, and one of my sons accidentally knocked the phone out of my hand, my brand new…

Michael: You’d had it like two days.

Megan: I had it barely a few minutes. I was taking a picture of another kid holding a fish, and one of the boys came around and knocked it out of my hands, and I watched it in our boat slip just sink down, down, down, all 20 feet or whatever it was, with the light on, going through the water. It was out of reach. There was nothing I could do. So I thought to myself, “I wonder if it could be retrieved.” You said, “I bet you could hire a diver to jump down and get it.” Anyway, long story short, we hired a diver, pulled the phone out.

Michael: What did you pay that guy, by the way?

Megan: Like $50 to jump down into the boat slip. I knew right where it was, so that helped. Anyway, took it to the Apple store, and they replaced it. A $700 or $800 phone was completely waterlogged. I thought for sure they would say no and think I was just making it up, but…

Michael: I mean, it’s one thing to replace something because it broke because it’s their fault.

Megan: It was my fault.

Michael: But you did something stupid. Well, you didn’t do it intentionally, but it was clearly not Apple’s fault; it was your fault. How does that make you feel toward Apple?

Megan: I’ll buy everything from them.

Michael: Totally. I’ve had that experience over and over again. We’re a little bit of Apple fanatics.

Megan: We are. One of the people who does this best, this kind of wowing of people, is John Ruhlin. He’s the author of the book Giftology, one of our favorite books from last year. Listen to what he has to say about the power of generosity to improve your customer relationships.

John Ruhlin: Everybody in business says relationships are their most valuable asset. Unfortunately, what people say as a leader or as a human being and what they do are very different things. They’re kind of incongruent. I think a lot of times people view generosity as that once-a-year thing. They have to check their box. They have to show gratitude to their clients, their employees, their family, and then they can shut it out of their mind for another 364 days.

What we feel is that there is real ROI to taking care of your most important relationships not one day a year but year-round. There are all kinds of wisdom literature, proverbs… Whether you have a faith background or not, there are all kinds of… Everything we’re talking about in Giftology really is shining light on things that are thousands of years old, and one of the biggest things is the idea that… In Proverbs 18:16 it talks about a gift can usher you into the presence of the king.

Even back that far, there’s talk of how important it is to show generosity to people and that there’s a real result to it. There’s a real metric. There are real numbers. This isn’t a warm fuzzy thing. This isn’t a “check the box” thing. This is a strategic business decision. This is a strategic relationship decision, and the more you can make it a gift… People confuse a gift or generosity with a promotional item or marketing. A gift by its very nature is a couple of different things.

First, it is not about you. So no logos. It’s not about your colors. It’s not about your preferences. No shopping with your own rose-colored glasses. It’s all about the recipient, about their name, their preferences, their legacy, their heritage. The more you can pour into making it a gift about them… Think about going to a wedding. You’d never engrave something with “Compliments of John Ruhlin” or “Compliments of Giftology.” It would be the cheesiest thing on the planet.

When you’re showing generosity, the more you can put the spotlight on them, what ends up happening… They tend to want to reciprocate and make the reciprocity all about you over the years and decades to come. At a core level, generosity… Think about it year-round, not once a year. Don’t make it about you; make it about them.

Personalize it to them, and make it about their inner circle, and do it because you want to, not out of obligation once a year because you have to. When you start to do that on a repeated and regular basis over time, it’s amazing the fruit, both profitability-wise in your business but also just the depth of your relationship… It’s amazing the fruit you start to see when you consistently do this year after year.

Megan: The other thing is that generosity can really turn around a bad customer experience. Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters is an incredible resource on how to do this, and according to Jay, 80 percent of companies think they’re delivering outstanding customer service, but only 8 percent of their customers agree.

Michael: That’s a little bit of a discrepancy there.

Megan: Yeah. Like, delusional.

Michael: I’ve had several experiences with Comcast, which is the company everybody loves to hate.

Megan: It’s almost like a swear word.

Michael: I know. But I’ve actually had pretty amazing service from them. Earlier this week there was this local outage. I know you guys experienced it at your office, and I experienced it at my office. I was down for two days, and I was reaching out to Comcast via Twitter, and they were responding back to me.

I told them I had a webinar on Wednesday I had to be able to broadcast. They followed up with Twitter. They said, “Hey, I’m going to make a call to the trucks out there and see if I can get somebody to try to expedite this and get the problem solved so you can be back online.” Then the guy kept pinging me every two hours and giving me a status report.

Megan: That’s amazing.

Michael: It really turned around my attitude, because I was not a happy camper, but just that little bit of customer service, exceeding my expectations, really did wow me, and it did create a sense of loyalty.

Megan: Which is amazing to say when you’re talking about Comcast, because most people would disagree with that, but I think they have a huge opportunity there. That’s the thing. There is this chance to create mutual loyalty through intentional generosity. No one wants to be in some kind of a one-sided relationship. That’s no fun. You don’t want to be the only one invested, and that’s what it feels like in a negative customer experience, like it’s kind of all on you and the other side doesn’t care. When they sense that you’re invested in them and in their success, loyalty is just a natural by-product.

Michael: It’s reciprocal. Absolutely.

Megan: Before we go any further, Dad, I know you have a quick announcement for us. Could you tell us what it is?

Michael: Today is the last day to sign up for my goal-setting course 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. If you want to set and achieve incredible goals this year (and I know you do), this course is your ticket. It’s built off a proven framework that incorporates the latest research on goal setting. You don’t want to miss this.

Megan: So what’s the real benefit of enrolling in this course?

Michael: Well, I think there are three main benefits. First, it’s extremely accessible. Anyone can take this course and feel prepared to take on the year, whether you’re in the middle of a transition, you’re on top of the world, or you’re stuck and looking for a breakthrough. It’s as great for executives as it is for pastors, coaches, managers, and teachers. We’ve had all those kinds of people enroll in the course in the past.

Second, it’s very affordable. People pay thousands of dollars during the year to get training or consulting for just one area of their lives, and this addresses all of the different areas of your life and costs way less. Third, the VIP and live editions offer community and accountability, and I highly recommend this to everyone. You don’t have to go it alone, and you shouldn’t go it alone. You can learn how to do what you’ve been struggling to do for years, and it’s way better when you’re in a community that can encourage you along the way.

Megan: That sounds awesome. How can people sign up, and what’s the deadline to enroll?

Michael: I’m glad you asked. Public registration is closing tonight at midnight, Pacific Time.

Megan: Like, tonight, tonight?

Michael: Tonight, tonight. All you need to do is head over to before then and get access to the course. Whether you’ve never set goals before or you set them all the time, you will love this.

Megan: That’s to sign up for 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. Remember, enrollment closes tonight at midnight, Pacific. All right. Thanks, Dad. Now let’s get back to our conversation about the benefits of generosity.

Michael: The third benefit for generous leaders is a little more personal. I’m talking about solid relationships. For one, generosity improves your marriage. Generosity isn’t just about performance and not just about making more money. It’s also about time, attention, and energy.

Megan: That’s especially true in marriage. I mean, who does what? Division of household chores, parenting, all the endless driving. Oh my goodness. I am in such that stage right now. It’s like carpool 24/7.

Michael: You didn’t know you were going to be a taxi driver when you signed up to be a parent.

Megan: I didn’t know. I should have probably had some training. So often in marriage we’re thinking about our own needs and what we want and what’s fair, and that’s natural. That’s really human, but good marriages come from two people thinking about how they can serve one another and really approaching marriage from a place of generosity. That gets really practical. It comes down to the division of household chores.

Instead of thinking primarily about equity and fairness, in a great marriage where both people are being generous you’re just looking for opportunities to help one another. It’s true of parenting too. Like, who’s going to put the kids to bed? Who’s going to get them ready for school or church? Who’s going to take them to practice? All those kinds of things. The endless driving. Hello. The endless driving. I’m so in that season right now.

One of the things I think is important to think about is how you can be generous with your spouse. In my case, how can I be generous with Joel? Offer to drive, for example, even if it’s not “my turn” to drive, and he does the same thing for me. That really fosters a solid relationship between us of trust, generosity, and kindness, because we’re always looking out for the benefit of the other person, and I think that’s what we’re really talking about here.

Michael: Well, it’s not that different from what we were talking about with customers or from the people who are our teammates. When we invest and go first and be generous, that gets reciprocated in a generosity back to us. So practicing more generosity in marriage has big rewards. No surprise there. But researchers from the University of Virginia set out to determine the effects of generosity on marriage, and what they found was that the recipient of generosity expressed high levels of marital satisfaction (so there’s the proof), but so did the giver.

According to the researchers, participants’ reports of behaving in a generous fashion toward your spouse were linked to their own reports of marital quality. The extension of generosity toward the spouse was positively related to their own reports of marital satisfaction. In other words, whether you’re on the receiving side or on the giving side, you’re going to have a greater level of satisfaction if you’re generous.

Megan: That’s really compelling. It’s funny. When you were talking, I had this idea. What if we treated our spouse like our best customer?

Michael: That could be enormously satisfying, just like it is with our customers. We delight in giving our customers great experiences. We want them to be satisfied, and more than satisfied…wowed. I want that in my marriage too. I still, even after 39 years of marriage, want to wow Gail. So back to that University of Virginia research study. Listen to one of those researchers, Dr. Bradford Wilcox, tell us about how generosity can increase the quality of your marriage.

Dr. Bradford Wilcox: The National Marriage Project recently did a study on the top predictors in marital quality for married parents in America. We found that when it came to both marital happiness and thoughts of divorce, generosity is one of the best predictors of marital satisfaction and also one of the best predictors of not thinking about divorce in your marriage.

Here generosity is understood as the virtue of giving good things to your spouse freely and abundantly. More concretely, the way we actually measured generosity in the study was to look at small acts of service, things like making coffee for your spouse in the morning, as well as the expression of affection, the expression of respect, and then also willingness to forgive your spouse for their mistakes or failings.

These things all together were how we measured generosity in marriage. What we found, not surprisingly, is that spouses who were the recipients of this kind of generous behavior were markedly happier in their marriages, but what was, I think, even more striking about this research was both wives and husbands who reported that they themselves embraced a spirit of generosity in their marriage were especially likely to be happy in their marriage.

So again, what we’re finding here is that, yes, being the recipient of generosity from your wife or your husband is a good thing, but adopting a more generous orientation to your spouse is an even better predictor of you being happy in your marriage. We also found when we were looking at sexual satisfaction in marriage, which of course, is also one of the top predictors of marital quality in our research and research of others, that couples who had a spouse who was more generous reported more sexual satisfaction.

Again, husbands and wives who reported that they themselves were generous were also much more likely to enjoy a high-quality sex life. The point here is that generosity fosters what we call global marital satisfaction, global marital stability, but it also spills over into a couple’s sexual relationship in ways that are pretty profound and important.

Another way to talk about this is what happens outside of the bedroom seems to matter a great deal in predicting how happy husbands and wives are with what happens in the bedroom. Again, one of those things for a good sex life (it’s not really surprising if you think about it) is to be generous toward them throughout the day and throughout the ebb and flow of a marriage.

Megan: Another thing is that generosity models a great habit for our kids. We’re all looking for ways to combat materialism in our kids. This is something that, as a parent, you have to be really proactive about, because the world of consumerism is after our kids like never before.

Michael: We live in a consumeristic society, a materialistic society, and even the holidays, even what were traditionally religious holidays, like Christmas, have been so overtaken by commercialism. Certainly we benefit from that as a business. A lot of businesses benefit from it, but one of the best Christmases we ever had (and surely you remember this) was when we decided on Christmas Day to go down and volunteer at a homeless shelter.

I think all of us felt like, “Really? Do we have to do this?” It kind of felt like a duty, but once we got there…oh my gosh. It was unbelievable. That still, to this day, is one of my most meaningful Christmases, one that stands out. I think it’s true for your kids. It’s true for our other kids’ kids. It was amazing.

Megan: It was, and I think part of that is because when you are proactive about generosity with kids it fosters gratitude. We talked about this recently in another episode, but it’s critically important to have gratitude as a habit and as a practice in your life. It’s almost like generosity is the spiritual discipline that puts you in a position where you can experience gratitude, because all of a sudden you realize, first of all, what you have does not belong to you, and that’s kind of an act of faith to share it with others. Second of all, you realize how much you have and how much you’ve been blessed with, which is really important.

Michael: The contrast really brings that into sharp relief.

Megan: Finally, generosity makes us more enjoyable to be around. Nobody likes hanging out with a Scrooge.

Michael: Nobody.

Megan: Generosity makes us relaxed and just fun to be around. The truth is the most fun people are very often the most generous. They’re thinking of others. Their attention is on other people. Not on themselves, not on the scarcity of what they have, but on abundance, and those kinds of people are usually full of joy, laughter, life, excitement. They’re just present in the moment.

Michael: You can think of one of our friends, Bob Goff, who’s one of the most generous, joyful people we know, and he’s extravagant in his generosity. We just got a package from him this week that was nothing other… Did you see this, by the way?

Megan: No, I haven’t seen it.

Michael: We got this box that had these balloons and confetti and just a note from Bob. It had a little cookie in it too, but it had a note from Bob, and he just said, “Thank you for having such an extraordinary marriage. We love the way you love each other, and we just want to celebrate you.” That kind of generosity was fantastic. It makes me want to be around Bob.

Megan: Literally a party in a box.

Michael: Yep. This makes sense because it turns out that being stingy actually increases stress, and I can prove it. There was a study from the Queensland University of Technology where the researchers were studying the physiological effects of participants who were forced to lowball a negotiation. What those people experienced was significantly heightened stress as compared to those who made generous offers. Think about it. It stresses me out. If I have to go in and try to fight with a vendor and try to nickel and dime them, it’s stressful.

Megan: I hate it.

Michael: I’d much rather be generous, and I certainly want to be a good steward. I understand that drive to get something for less, and I want our people to try to do that, but not at the expense of somebody else losing. To me it has to be win-win. That’s kind of my model or what guides me in terms of generosity. We obviously see that in a hundred different kinds of settings.

Megan: I like that. So what are some practices you use to cultivate the habit of generosity on an everyday basis?

Michael: So it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging on myself, let me just tell you some stories about some friends of mine who are very generous and have been an inspiration to me. I have a good friend who is a very generous tipper. I’m talking about 50 to 100 percent in terms of what he tips.

Megan: What?

Michael: I know. It sounds crazy. He’s in a position where he can do it. Not everybody can do it. I get that. One of the things he said to me is the easiest, fastest way to get money to the people who need it the most… Don’t send it to Washington and let them skim off a big administrative charge. Instead, just give all of it to the people who need it the most.

One of the best ways to do that is people who are working in jobs waiting tables or serving you in other ways. Usually, those are jobs that don’t pay well. Those people depend on tips, and the more generous we can be, the better off not only will they be, but it’s also good for our souls. I have another friend in the neighborhood who uses this… He’s kind of a handyman, but the guy is almost homeless. He sleeps out of his car. He only charges $10 an hour.

He does really great work, and our friend said, “This is ridiculous. We have to get Jim a home. We have to pay him a living wage.” So they just decided they were going to pay him $20 an hour. Then the other neighbors decided they were going to do the same thing. Jim is not living out of his car anymore. That was a kind of generosity that really came out of a genuine concern for him but blessed him and blessed them.

Megan: So today, we’ve covered the three benefits of generosity: a strong team, loyal customers, and solid relationships. We all know intuitively that generosity is right, but I hope you’ve discovered in this episode that generosity also provides some very tangible results. Any final thoughts, Dad?

Michael: I was just thinking back to the very beginning when we were talking about Saint Nicholas and what an inspiration his life of generosity has been to multiple generations through history and is still an inspiration to us in this current generation.

When we think about the impact generosity can have on other people, not just for what we get out of it, as the ones who are doing the giving, but for what it means for other people, I think it’s a worthy life goal, a worthy aspiration to try to become the most generous people we possibly can, maybe the most generous people we know; to be a model of generosity to our children, our companies, and our communities. Not only will it be a blessing to them, but I think it’ll be a blessing to us as well.

Megan: I think you’re right.

As we close, I want to thank our sponsor LeaderBox. It provides automated personal development in a box. Check it out at If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, you can get the show notes and a full transcript at

Michael: Thanks again for joining us on Lead to Win. If you like the show, please tell your friends and colleagues about it, and also please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

Megan: This program is copyrighted by Michael Hyatt & Company. All rights reserved. Our producer is Nick Jaworski.

Michael: Our writers are Joel Miller, Mandi Rivieccio, and Jeremy Lott.

Megan: Our recording engineer is Mike Boyer.

Michael: Our production assistants are Mike Burns and Aleshia Curry.

Megan: Our intern is Winston.

Michael: We invite you to join us for our next episode, where we’ll be discussing those dreaded New Year’s resolutions. Until then, lead to wi