Sir Winston Churchill (British politician, 1874 – 1965) once said “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”, I recently heard this quote during a presentation on philanthropy over here in Luxembourg and liked it as it reflects some of the things I try to live by.
When I started writing on this subject I searched the web for the quote and noticed how often it is used in the context of philanthropy, mainly to attract people who are looking for possibilities to use their money for a good cause. You could assume now that the quote has become a source of income for some organizations. I always find it interesting to see the different sides of the medal and using this quote for marketing purposes somehow feels as if the saying has been reversed as this usage is intended to make money. I’m not saying that this usage is bad, in fact I find it a quite intelligent combination. From the marketing point of view it certainly is always good to have a catchy point and for some years to come anything said by Sir Winston Churchill will almost automatically be associated with something intelligent and important.
The result of using money for philanthropic purposes also fulfills the goal. The money earned is being giving away to help others, to keep memory alive, to educate and so many other possible causes. Normally it is something the person is passionate about and wants to share with the world.
This doesn’t mean that making a life can only be achieved by giving money. There are numerous other possibilities to “make a life” which I would describe as everything you can achieve by your own actions, may it be daily or not and which you’ll remember in a positive way yourself as well as be remembered in a positive way by others.
In my case I believe that I will continue to remember the last 10 years I have been a member of JCI (Junior Chamber International) in such a positive way. These have been years of intense experience of receiving through giving. During these years I engaged in all kinds of projects, became a leader within JCI, started to give trainings and am meanwhile learning to be a coach. The projects I engaged in, were quite diverse and included sporting events, setting up international contacts, train young people for their first job interview, find projects to be funded, establish a competition for young and creative entrepreneurs, train young members within the organization, help local organizations to market themselves … The most fascinating during all these projects was that all the time I could invest, energy I used to help the projects step forward, everything I did resulted in a great learning experience. This is not saying that everything has always been positive but it means that I learned to develop a mindset capable to find something positive in every experience.
If you are below 40 JCI is an experience worthwhile a try, wherever you are check it out it should be possible to find a local organization close by.
By the way, the most difficult to learn was to see that others do remember some of the projects in the same positive way I do. If this is a challenge for you too, go back into your memory and look at the faces you saw, the feedback you heard, the messages you read. Leave aside what you think you should have done better, can you now see the smiles, hear the appreciation read the positive comments?
This is the moment in which you realize that you have started to make a life.
[Original publication via frogstalk.com, May 23, 2010]