I’ve been thinking a lot about what Phil Windley calls an “abundance mentality.” (He didn’t coin the term; it was through his article that I was introduced to the phrase.) I’ve been seeing variations on the same theme from Paul Allen (who really epitomizes the concept of an abundance mentality), Garr Reynolds, Kathy Sierra, and others.
I like to be open with what I’ve learned, particularly regarding web standards and Internet usability. It’s one of my strengths, though I don’t pretend to be near the level of Jakob Nielsen or Jeffrey Zeldman, giants in their respective fields before I even knew what the Internet was. I have friends call me regularly asking questions about programming. I have friends that I call regularly asking questions about programming. Without this network of professionals, none of us would be as successful as we are now.
My middle child turned three last week. Sandwiched between his brothers, he has little that can be accurately identified as “his.” As he was opening his presents, we would ask, “What is it?” Each time he would reply, “It’s mine!” He seemed more exited about being able to possess something his brothers weren’t entitled to (“Give that back, it’s not yours!”) than he was about what the toys actually were.
Are we like that with our knowledge/skills/training/whatever? I’ve said it before: I’ve learned more about programming outside the classroom than I ever did while jumping through hoops for my computer science degree. The willingness of others to publish free tutorials, answer questions, or just sit and brainstorm has been essential. I attribute most of my skill with databases to a co-worker at my first computer job, who first walked me through the basics of (normalized) database design. That 20-minute impromptu lesson was the cornerstone of many future projects and formal training. If it wasn’t for his mentoring, my career would likely not have followed the same path. I’m in his debt.
I’ve put together a short list of reasons I feel rewarded for sharing:
- Teaching is learning. The best way to learn something is to share it with someone else.
- Trust. A willingness to share what you’ve learned engenders a feeling of trust. I’ve received several business offers, based primarily on past interactions where I was “abundant.”
- Abundance. When you are willing to share, others are more willing to share with you. Pardon the buzzwords, but the synergy of an abundant social network holds extraordinary value.
I’ve worried about giving away business ideas, or helping someone else enter the same market space, but every time I take a step back I find sharing was the best decision. To paraphrase a wise teacher, “In order to become great, we must help others be great.”