I think if I had to list my main principles, generosity would be on the list, for sure. I don’t think it has always been. I sure remember being petty and selfish in my teens and even my 20s. But a thread of it had to be there. Generosity for me is not about money–never had enough to warrant that–but a generosity of spirit and time. What that looks like in action is that when someone asks a favor–to write something, to give advice, to serve on a committee, to help with a project–I say, sure. Sometimes I give without being asked.
The web really opened up possibilities for that. I remember back in the 90s, I ran an IRC chat to help people parenting toddlers. Through that chat, I met people who were coding, so I jumped on that bandwagon. There was a chat for that! And then once I learned, I helped others. When I went back to school, I would help people who were clearly struggling in the computer lab. That help led to a paying job or two. Online, I do things for free all the time–blogging, running Twitter chats, answering questions in forums. I get nothing for that except the satisfaction that I might help someone, that I might be providing some kind of service to the greater good.
Since Alan commented on my last post, I have to mention that this reminds me of his project, stories of openness, which I participated in a long time ago. The idea is to share stories of being open and what happened as a result. Sure, I’ve seen my stuff get sucked into other sites, but mostly by posting in the open, by sharing everything, good things happen.
I do this in person, too. At work, I’m always willing to give time to a student or colleague. I do all kinds of things beyond the call of duty. I have my limits, but generally, if I feel I can contribute, I do. And if I feel someone else would be a better contributor, I send the work their way.
I’m not perfect. I feel like I’m less generous at times with my family. In part, because I think my family is a kind of refuge that I don’t need to be generous with, but I think a little more generosity–especially of spirit–with them would pay off.
Generally, I surround myself with people who feel the same way. I find I have the most trouble getting along with people who are selfish with their time or stuff, who feel they own everything they say and do and worry about what happens if it gets out into the world. That might explain my issue with the academy. 🙂 I understand the fear of letting something free out there, that someone might steal it, that someone might take your idea and do it better and maybe they’re a competitor of yours and will take business away from you. I’ve had that fear. But I think you have to let that go. I think being open has its risks, but the benefits are far greater.