First off…is it already halfway through January?! Wowsers that went fast. I hope the first few weeks of the new year have treated you gloriously! Personally I felt off my game for the first week or so as the transition from family time, hiking and relaxing to work and routine felt like a Chuck Norris kick to the face-parts. That being said, it’s great to be back in the city, see friends, and get back into creating a life that I enjoy. #whitehipsteryoungheteromalefirstworldprivilege.
Speaking of the aforementioned privilege – last month I committed to you all to volunteer 10 hours a month and donate 10% of my income, which I creatively called 10-for-10 (virtual pat on back for me). The reason I did so publicly was to have some accountability – if I wasn’t following through then I’d have people to help get me back on the horse.
But WHY choose to do this in the first place? Why ‘give up’ time and money, especially when I’m starting a company from scratch and don’t feel I have much of either to spare?
Well, partly because of that very reason – I want to challenge myself to set aside time and money for important things and stick to those obligations, especially when it’s hard. If I don’t proactively live my life in a way that builds in volunteering and giving back, then I won’t be living my most awesome life. And how can I then talk to you all about how to make that happen if I’m not doing it myself? Answer – I can’t. Or at least shouldn’t!
The other reason for doing this is to help me keep perspective on how fortunate I am and grow my ability to empathize with others. It’s easy to get wrapped up in my own struggles & challenges and lose perspective, especially when my friend group is made up of intelligent, successful, ambitious white people who make $80K+ a year. Giving back allows me to step outside my bubble and connect with the humanness of people who aren’t like me. Again, #whitehipsteryoungheteromalefirstworldprivilege.
Now, on to the accountability part! Here is what the first month (December) of 10-for-10 was like:
Deets on Donations
I did it! Last month I donated 10% of my income, splitting it evenly between These Numbers Have Faces and Lasallian Volunteers.
Quick refresher – These Numbers Have Faces is a charity run by a fellow high school grad that empowers Africa’s brightest students to become leaders (so awesome!), and Lasallian Volunteers is an education focused organization that works with low income, minority students, and who I volunteered with for over two years in Portland, OR back in ’09 – ’11.
*Note* – this first month I didn’t deduct business expenses from my income, but will do so moving forward. Why? I want to make sure I invest enough in my business so that I can grow more quickly, make more money and ultimately donate more. Gotta keep an eye out for the long term.
It wasn’t easy to do – seeing 10% of my income flow out of my bank account was a bit of a shock. But it also felt really good to hit the “Donate” buttons. It’s going to take some adjustments in my current spending to account for this new “expense”, but I’m not too worried. It’s one of the benefits of identifying what’s important to you and aligning your spending with those values – it makes it easier to cut out things that don’t fit into your goals and values.
Where/When/What of volunteering
I hit my volunteering goal (yay!) with a total of 12ish hours at two different places:
- Henry Street Settlement House – This is where I met that incredible Tibetan woman I wrote about in the last newsletter. After that experience I decided to start volunteering in their Workforce Development Center weekly, where I work 1-on-1 with their ESL students, helping them with mock interviews and their resumes.
- St. Stephen’s Church (back in California) – My family has a longstanding tradition of volunteering at a homeless breakfast every Christmas morning, and we were fortunate enough to be able to do it again this year. It can be sad to see some of the same people year after year, but they appreciate the food and our work to prepare it, and listening to their experiences and struggles helps reinforce that appreciation for how fortunate I really am.
Thoughts on this first month
I’ll be honest, it felt really good donate and get out each week to volunteer. Whenever I’d walk into Henry Street I forgot about work, any problems I thought I had, and could just focus on others which was awesome.
That being said, I am a little scared because this 10% money/time donation goal is pretty ambitious. I’m afraid that I committed myself to giving too much and I could quickly burn out. There’s also this fear that I could be limiting what I’m able to invest in my business up-front (especially with cash flow so tight), which would ultimately limit my ability to grow, earn more income and donate more in the future.
All in all though, I’m extremely glad I said “screw it” and committed to simply taking that first step. It may be tough these first few months, but I know that I will find the appropriate balance as time goes on.
Thank you all for your words of encouragement and support when I announced this! Also, keep sending me names of charities you think are worthwhile that I could either volunteer at or donate to, as I’ve already got a burgeoning list going thanks to you all 🙂
Gariots of Fire
PS – I made a 2 min video that gives you a look into what my first morning of volunteering looked like! Check it out!