Paying it forward

by jeffhilimire on February 10, 2014

I’ve been in a fairly deep state of reflection over the last few months. It really started with my Leadership Atlanta experience in 2012-13, but then kicked into a new gear while reading, Mountains Beyond Mountains, suggested to me by the pastor of my church, Gary Charles. Mountains Beyond Mountains tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who has dedicated his entire life to helping others, with a particular focus in Haiti. He is a brilliant doctor that could be making millions of dollars a year, and instead is giving everything to help one of the poorest countries in the world. If you want to change your life, pick up this book.

I’ve been reflecting on my life and how I’ve been spending it in regards to helping others. I sit on several non-profit boards, and while I enjoy that and feel that I provide some value, that’s not making a real difference. I’m fairly gracious when I hand money or food to a homeless person, but that’s only helping that one person that one day. I’ve been asking myself lately, how can I do more?

My schedule is a mess. I am CEO of a startup trying to break through in mobile games. I’m on four boards and several “advisory” boards. I have four children and we’re adopting a second child later this year. We’re pretty involved at our church and I coach my daughter’s soccer team. And I’ve created two different entities that will help non-profits and causes in Atlanta that need it most (more on those in future posts). Needless to say, I have a fairly full plate.

So where would I find the time? After studying my calendar, I discovered something interesting as it relates to how I spend my time. In business, I’ve had many people help me with advice over the years. So when people ask to meet with me to get advice, I almost always say “yes” as I’m a huge believer in the power of selflessly helping others. I get asked to meet with people who want to start a business, who want to sell a business, who are looking for a career change, who have a child in need of guidance or an internship…the list goes on. On average I have five of these meetings – or the equivalent of five hours – a week! While I love doing it, in reality those aren’t the people that really need help.

Which brings me to the question of where my passion really lies. There are two areas that I feel most passionate about making an impact in:

  • Homelessness
  • Social justice

I feel so passionately about helping in these areas because I personally have been given so much. I’ve had every advantage that a person can have in life and there are so many who have zero advantages…in fact, they have DISADVANTAGES, and because of that I feel the need to see how I can help.

THE BIG IDEA

Until this weekend I thought I was going to decide to stop meeting with people who wanted business advice and instead use those five hours a week and donate time to helping in either homelessness or social justice issues. While I wouldn’t want to stop helping people in the business community, at least my time would be going to a place where I feel needed it more. And then the big aha moment hit me!

Rather than tell people “no, I can’t meet with you”, instead, I’m going to ask them to agree to donate one hour of time to a non-profit or charitable activity in exchange for meeting with me. That way, I can happily agree to meet with someone to see if I can help their business or career, and at the same time I’ll be ensuring that the people who REALLY need help are getting it. PLUS there is a possibility that the people that I send to these non-profits will feel inspired and continue to help!

So…

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THE RULES FOR ASKING ME TO MEET / FOR ADVICE

I will happily meet with you – if I can – but in exchange you agree to spend one hour helping a non-profit (or other related activity). And you agree to share that experience afterwards, either on your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn or other public way.

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Update: Answered questions about the concept here.

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