I just got an email from a participant of my Spring 2012 workshop in the UK.

She wanted to send me money.

I had completely forgotten about this.

At the weekend workshop, which I run on a Pay What You Can basis she’d told me, “I’ll be in the United States in the summer. Can I just mail you a cheque then? It’ll be easier for me and then I can send it from my US account. No fees for you etc.”

So, of course I said, “Yes! That sounds wonderful.” I’ve found that when you trust people, they trust you back.

Here’s a secret: I keep terrible track of the money people owe me.

Here’s the truth: I don’t keep track of the money people owe me unless we make a specific agreement on timing.

At all.

And yet, they keep sending it to me.

I don’t make them promise. I don’t have them sign a contract to pay me. I often invite them to give me a sense of timing. And sometimes they can’t. And sometimes I forget to write it down. You’ll notice my business is not called ‘Accounting for Hippies’.

And yet, I’m not taken advantage of. Months later, long after I’ve forgotten, people send me emails wanting to send me money. Once a man showed up to a workshop with a cheque for $80 more dollars. He just wanted me to have it. I used to run free intro workshops. And some people would insist on paying me for them.

“But this is a free workshop.”

They’d look at me, “Right . . .” and continue writing our their cheque.

When you genuinely give to people, they want to give back. When people give to you from their heart, it is such an incredible joy to give back. Because it’s no longer a transaction, it’s the experience of community. It’s the beauty of being a generosity based business.

A year or so ago, I went to see Mumford and Sons live in concert in Toronto. I’d bought two tickets thinking I’d find someone to go with me. Amazingly, I couldn’t find a damn person. WTF! Mumford and Sons! So I went with the extra ticket and found a young couple holding up a sign for a ticket. They already had one but they needed one more. I offered them my extra one.

“What do we owe you?”

I shook my head, “No no. Just pay it forward. Enjoy the show.”

“WHAT?!! Really? Oh my god! Thank you so much!” she started to tear up and the fellow looked gobsmacked.

We chatted a bit and I went in to what ended up being one of the best live music shows I’ve ever been to (ended up getting stiffed in a cab by a cute girl but that’s another far more depressing story).

Months later, I get a letter from the couple with a picture of themselves at the concert. They’d made a donation for the ticket amount to Amnesty International in my name. And they wanted to let me know what that gift had meant to them.

People are good.

It’s no secret that when I was young I wanted to be a street performer. Because it was so honest. They went out onto the street and not only did they get money at the end . . . they had people wanting to give them money . . . feeling so happy to give them money. Not because they thought they should but because they wanted to. They wanted to thank the busker for the gift of the show. They wanted to acknowledge they work that must have gone into the craft of it. I once saw a busker (he was new) tell his audience halfway through the show that they should come up to his hate and put in half of the money they were intending to pay at the end so he didn’t get screwed if people walked away at the end (which will always happen no matter how good you are).

What’s more powerful than imposing morality?

Helping people find their own goodness.

And then your only role is to keep experiencing happy delight when they do.

One of my mentors in magic, Gazzo Macee, used to say to his audiences, ‘Ladies and gentlemen. I think street theatre is one of the most honest forms of theatre in the world. Anywhere else you go to see a show you pay in advance. If it’s no good it’s awkward to leave and you can’t get your money back. But on the street you get to see the whole show in advance and you get to pay what you think it’s worth. I think this show is worth $5. If you saw me do this in a bar, you’d buy me a beer. A beer is $5. But if you don’t have $5 then a dollar or two is fine. If you don’t even have a dollar . . . please keep your money – this show is my gift to you.’

In essence, he was letting the crowd know that he loved them and that he trusted them to do what they could.

And you felt it.

He was admitting his humanity. He was admitting that he needed money and that he was open to receiving it if they could pay him.

No pushing. No ‘hard closes’.

At the end of a recent weekend workshop I was paid incredibly well by one of the participants and he told me there were three reasons he’d paid so well,  “Firstly, some people in the room could not pay or paid very little and we have to keep you operating. Secondly, I learned a lot it was worth it for me , most people have never been in sales so they don’t know how good it was. And thirdly, as Clive Owens said in the trailer for the The inside man, ‘because I can’.”

So much of the world of sales, and so much of the world of politics, is full people saying to us, ‘trust me.’

But you know what’s more powerful?

Saying, ‘I trust you.’


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More Stories of This:

After I posted this I got this email a few days later:

You may have noticed that the $200 cheque I gave to you last August has bounced! I am very sorry – I was anticipating that it had been withdrawn on the first of August, and spent money without checking. I have since gone to the bank and have a money order ready for you. (I am told you cannot re-issue a rejected cheque). Please let me know your mailing address, and I will send it to you as soon as possible. I still think of the things I learned in your seminar- it was very useful, and certainly enjoyable!
In March of 2015, I received an email money transfer for $700 from a couple who had attended my workshop. I remembered them as being my favourite people in that particular workshop. They sent along this note too.
My wife and myself took your marketing for hippies course last year in Vancouver (I think it was December) and at the time, we promised to make regular monthly payments which we didn’t do and didn’t communicate we wouldn’t do. Our financial situation has dramatically improved and I sent you earlier today an e-transfer with our payment for the course.
Even more than the content of your course, which is proving very useful, it’s the spirit in which you run your business that inspired me the most. Last month, my associate and I took on to start offering our services on a pay-what-you-want basis and are experimenting with it. It is both deeply satisfying and the source of a lot of questioning about what we offer and the perceived value of our own courses. I am not sure where it will go yet, but we are definitely going for it. Thank you for not only doing it yourself, but sharing that you do, it made a big difference for me.
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