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The Law of Generosity

The motivational speaker and author shares a story that illustrates how much we gain by giving away.

Jon Gordon
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In the field of electronics there are resistors and conductors. A resistor holds on to its electrons and in doing so the resistor has little or no electrical current moving through it. Thus it has limited power.

The conductor, by contrast, gives up its electrons and in doing so it generates power from the current that flows through it. The greater the current, the greater the power that will be radiated by the conductor.

I believe generosity works the same way. Twenty years ago I started a non-profit in Atlanta called The Phoenix Organization. I needed a logo and a friend recommended I talk to Tall Paul who lived in our apartment complex.

When Tall Paul opened his apartment door I realized why they called him Tall Paul. Turns out he was a basketball star at Bucknell University before he became a design student at The Creative Circus… and he was really tall!

I told Paul about my mission to raise money and organize volunteers for youth focused charities and explained that I needed a logo but didn’t have any money. I was 23 years old, going to graduate school at the time and bartending at night to pay for school. Paul agreed to do it and within a few weeks he created the perfect logo. 

Several years later as Atlanta was preparing for the 1996 Olympics I owned a restaurant in Buckhead in addition to running the Phoenix Organization. I was asked by the Anheuser-Busch representatives if I knew someone who could paint large murals inside many of the establishments to prepare for the Olympics.

I recommended Paul and he was hired for a number of their projects. It was exciting to see the generosity he shared with me come back exponentially to him. 

I reminded Tall Paul of this story last spring as we reconnected and talked on the phone about our lives, families and careers. After a successful career in creative design and advertising, Tall Paul started his own photography business.

He was doing a lot of great photo shoots; Mayor Bloomberg included, but like any new business he wanted to grow. So I encouraged him to do what he did for me 20 years ago, help people in need. He liked the idea but was skeptical. After all, we were young, naive and single back then but now he had a family to support. 

Nonetheless Paul decided to give it a shot and began sharing his talents and service without expecting anything in return. He brought his camera to BBQ gatherings with friends and took pictures of their kids, retouched the images and sent them frame-ready keepsakes. 

I had told Paul that when you give from the heart without expecting anything in return it’s amazing how opportunities will come back to you when you least expect them and that’s exactly what happened.

A few months later Paul received a call about a 5-week photo shoot for a global branding campaign for The Disney Channel. It was his biggest commercial job ever including photo shoots in LA, Atlanta, Chile, Chicago and NY. 

Yet, even as Paul was receiving he kept giving. In between travel stints during the Disney campaign he still gave to others in need. He did a few head shots for aspiring actors, took some PR photos for a musician and made a few logos for friends.

Paul said that the more he gave, the more commercial photography jobs came his way and before he knew it, he was booked through the end of the year. 

I told Paul that this is how generosity works. The more you give, the more you will receive to give away. When you give you become a conductor for all the good that is meant to be shared with others.

When you hold on to what’s yours you become a resistor with limited power and energy to make a difference. Like an electrical current, the more we give the more the current of good moves through us and the more powerful we become. 

True power comes from giving, not accumulating.

I’ve also learned that generosity comes in many forms. Some give their time and talent while others may give away their love and money. Some give food and compliments while others volunteer. There are countless ways to be generous and the ways we are generous may change over our lifetime. The important thing is to find ways to give and share without expecting anything in return. 

If you are skeptical like Paul was initially, I want to encourage you to give it a shot. Don’t take my word for it. Just put the law of generosity to the test in your own life. You don’t have to be a 6′ 8″ former basketball star to be powerful. You just have to give freely, become a conductor and you’ll generate more power to share. 

And while you are at it check out Tall Paul’s website and photography. He’s an artist with a camera and I’ll always be grateful to him for helping a 23-year-old with a dream to make a difference in the world.


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