It is pure delight to listen to someone very accomplished share their life experiences. That is why an old episode of Oprah’s Master Class really interests me. The other night I was struck by something that was said on that show. It was not a novel idea or something that I didn’t already know, but something I hadn’t really heard so clearly said by someone so successful, like Goldie Hawn. The main point was that we should always pay it forward, no matter how much or how little we have in life. We each have our blessings, in different shapes and forms. That was it. Simple concept, right?
What went on to be discussed, and what I pondered extensively, was that most people in the world today are obsessed with their own lives. It’s all about “will I get a promotion? Where can I park my car? How can I cross the street faster? How can I make more money?” So on, and so forth. People spend a great deal of time obsessing about how to get ahead, rather then actually doing something that’s good for the person standing next to them or to the world as a whole.
In the movie Pay It Forward (Warner Bros. 2000), a young boy comes up with a concept that for every generous act done to him, he must pay forward with three generous acts to three different people, and tell each one of them, to do the same for three others. A simple concept that could make peoples lives that much better and as a ripple effect create a psychic change in entire communities and then possibly in the world. Somehow that concept did not catch on.
Most people make lame excuses instead of paying forward. “I don’t make enough money to make donations, why should I give money to this cause when it’s the government’s job to take care of this issue?” And it goes on, one after the next. But the point here is not how much money can you give back, or how much time you have to dedicate to doing volunteer work; it’s how do you behave in society, in your daily life? How do your daily actions affect the world that surrounds you? And then maybe, depending on who you are, what job you have and how much money you make, what type of bigger contributions can you make to the betterment of the world?
I have worked with many successful models and artists in the entertainment industry. Over the years I have come across many generous souls who have contributed to a plethora of causes. I have also met many who simply go through life as if it was a party, with no consequences and no interest in doing anything for anyone else. One of my most inspiring muses is one of my most loyal clients, a successful model who has always worked extremely hard for obtaining success. Proportionally at the same time, this girl has always taken a portion of her time (and her earnings) to apply towards charity, volunteer work and political lobbying to change the roots of the problems. Her goal, from the very start, when nobody knew her name, was to achieve fame so that she could leverage change. She had made a conscious decision that if she was going to give up university to a life of globetrotting under the spotlight, then it better be worth it. She has, to some extent, accomplished all that.
The story illustrates that we must always give back. We must always pay it forward, in any scale that we can. It’s from those little acts, of holding the elevator to the person who is running a little behind to making a five dollar donation to a homeless shelter (or whatever else interests you) or giving a lecture on what you’re an expert on to those who wish to learn. A little help goes a long way in our world today.
People who give something back and share their fortunes with the world, generally live a much happier and fuller life. What I didn’t know when I was younger and I know now, is that by giving myself to others I find real fortune. Happiness lives in honest altruism. The idea that I could go through life not giving anything in return for all the good that came to me is daunting.
My dreams truly blossomed and concretized after I started giving myself away to others and also discovered I could learn and let my life be enriched by each and every one of these encounters. There is so much we can learn from day to day life, but it takes an open mind to see it and an open heart to understand it.
The real master class is not on Oprah Winfrey’s network, it is all around us.