When I was in grade school the teachers would often say that participation, contributing to the class, and doing the assignments were a good portion of what you got graded upon. I have never really fancied myself as a joiner, even at that age, and so quite often my grades didn’t reflect what my knowledge was upon the subject, rather the amount of contribution I chose to do in the class… I wasn’t ever accused of being a straight-A student by any stretch of the imagination.
It wasn’t a case of laziness per se, it was more of seeing the reason behind putting the effort into the work.
As an Entrepreneur
As I started to see that working the regular 9 to 5, in my early 20s was beginning to resemble a form of a slow and interminable method of causing death, I sought out the way I could go from being the worker bee to owning the whole beehive. I knew where I wanted to end up, I just didn’t know how I was going to get there. I soon figured out that I had to out-hustle and outwork all those that were around me. I had to contribute more to a job, to the experience, and to the outcome than would be normally expected.
I am a first-generation entrepreneur, and with not having an example to follow or too many people to have as a mentor, I ventured out into the realm of creating that “ending” I had envisioned. And although that vision has morphed a few times from the initial view to what it is now, one thing keeps running true. It is the high level that you need to contribute to the area in which you chose to set up and to those with whom you connect. Not only to your chosen professional circles but also to the greater marketplace at large. We definitely get back our mete as we measure!
As a Family Man
When I became a husband and a father soon after I came to the realization that tv shows and movies are straight out lying to you. That the ‘Happily Ever After’ gag was a misnomer and it was work to remain such. Now, this is not saying that my chosen companion was difficult in any way, she is in fact the opposite of that. She is one of the most selfless, and magnificent people I have had the pleasure to meet in my lifetime. It is nearly because of that very fact that we are still together and doing well as a couple after nearly 3 decades.
It was I who had the long row to hoe on this one. I naturally look inward and internalize. And that, selfishness, and self-obsession of thinking I was the only one going through the trials and tribulations I have faced in the past took precedence over the Us in this equation. I have learned by God’s good grace, and through her everflowing patience that I must continue to contribute daily to the Us so that Happily Ever After has a chance to actually happen.
Additionally over the course of time, and through constant prayer and thought I have tried to apply that with each one of the children we brought into this world together. I know that as I seek to contribute, and not to control, that each interaction I have with those closest to me becomes that much sweeter and precious.
As a Human Being
My Life Experience has been such of continual struggle. But, as I write that, who’s life hasn’t been a dogged, dragged-out brawl with obstacles, opposition, and strife? Show me a person who hasn’t had any of that and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t truly had a Mortal Experience. We all face our own hills to climb, and most of the time it is in a blind rage or dumbfounded stupor. For me, I have had to try and overcome what Gandhi said was the thought of the oppressed. That once we feel slighted or pressed upon to “walk that extra mile” from an outside source, we near immediately rise up in sheer defiance, throwing punches and looking to do harm to those who we think have transgressed us. This, what I call tribal anger, is one of the things I have consistently tried to quell in the heart of my savage beast.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, there is a time and a place to rise against tyranny and stand up for oneself, and that in fact could have to happen on a daily basis in today’s world. We cannot fully contribute to all if all aren’t free and have the liberty to contribute themselves.
Contribution to humankind, can and always will have a two-sided juxtaposition. Of the good and the evil. Generally speaking, as you can do for or with those who have the greatest benefit from those actions (of peace, comfort, contentment, etc.) a good thing, and the opposite of that being of a detrimental evil. Everyone recognizes justice and knows how it feels when an injustice has been perpetrated. Everyone also can detect when something done for a society or within that community is beneficial and when that sour line has been crossed into the realm of despotism. It is for us to decide which is which. No matter the amount of wordplay that can occur, or a society tolerates can change that fact. We certainly can feel when evil is being called good, and good is being called evil.
You choose the degree to which you want to contribute to all mankind. If you just want to effect for the benefit of as many as possible or as little as possible you have that choice. We have all been given a Spark of Life, a Passion that Enlivens our Souls, and it is for us to determine if we foster and grow that or bury it under a rock in fear of losing what motivates us the most. Do we let our Spark, our Genius shine forth for all to receive from its divine nature?
You may have wondered, what may be the difference between the likes of George Washington, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr, or even Oprah and the likes of everyone else? What has set them apart from your neighbors and friends? They were willing to let their Genius shine through and decided to contribute more and more often the exceptionalism that it takes to have all see and recognize that Genius.
How can the contribution that you put out affect your circles? Your community? Your profession and marketplace? Your world and all that live in it?… Your very own self?
As a Child of God
In my spiritual journey, I have come to the remembrance that we all have a purpose in this life, which drove us here from our existence previous, and that will continue on with us when we leave this mortal coil. That is, we are here to knock off the rough edges of our natural selves and smooth out those tough patches that keep us from the ethereal, the divine, the eternal.
And the revealing of our True, and Polished Selves can only be done in the doing of it all. It is certainly true that no man (or woman) is an island. That we are all connected in some way, shape, or fashion, and in the most spiritual sense of it all it is in the contribution we set forth that helps us learn, and grow, and become wise. How best we contribute in this world of ours is how wise we can become and how much we can leave a legacy of good behind us… to remind all who come afterward there is a way up that hill that is before them.
So what does Contribution have to do with being Self Reliant? It is the very essence in the actions you decide to take, what you can contribute to and add upon that connects directly to being self-reliant. The more you can contribute, the more self-sustaining you can be.
It is the amount that you choose to participate in life, in the lives of those around you that can determine the level of Contribution you are known for. And it is the higher level of contributions you choose to make that can be a lasting benefit for all who come to know your True Self. For me, this is something I personally want to get a perfect 4.0 in!
*As a reminder, here is our Self Reliance List 1) Competence 2) Confidence 3) Connection 4) Character 5) Contribution 6) Coping 7) Control 8) Core Values