Recently I led a client retreat with a highly successful writer and editor in New York City. One of the challenges we gave her was to give away $1,000 to strangers on the street. And what I learned by watching her changed my relationship to possibility forever—and it might change yours, too.
The first place she walked into was a Subway sandwich shop, where she offered $100 to the guys behind the counter. “Would you like $100?” she asked. Amazingly, both looked at her with confused looks, and neither said, “Yes.”
These guys, who probably work for minimum wage, didn’t know how to respond to a simple, generous offer of $100. But another customer at the counter did. He said, “I’ll take $100… are you sure?” And so he got the money. He ended up buying sandwiches for the other patrons before we left.
The next guy we met was was food cart jockey. Our client bought a doughnut from him and gave him a $20, telling him to keep the change. He couldn’t believe it. He almost cried because she was so generous.
Person after person we met was reluctant, cautious, resistant—they agreed to take the money eventually, but only after much convincing: that YES, it’s okay, NO, you don’t have to do anything for it, and YES, I really want you to have it.
This whole experience made me wonder, “How am I doing this in my own life?” Where are people trying to give me a gift—the equivalent of handing me $100 on the street—but I’m resisting, saying, “Wait, are you sure?” And so someone else is getting the gift instead, or the giver is left feeling awkward that they have to keep offering, over and over, something from their heart to me?
Leaders and innovators are often the worst at receiving. We have such a clear idea of how we’re going to get rich, create an impact, and change the world that we miss what’s very often right in front of us.
What if we’re on our way to the ATM, and we pass someone who’s handing out hundred dollar bills on the street…
What would happen if we just allowed some things to be that easy?