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.’




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.

About Tad

  • Brenda Kerber

    Thank you for this Tad! Our world tries to teach us that we can’t trust anyone and we need to be fearful and protective of ourselves at every moment or we will be robbed and cheated. I have found the opposite to be true. There are some people in this world who lie, cheat and steal – there always will be and they will always find a way to do what they want to do – there is little you can do to fully protect yourself from that. The vast majority of people are honest and caring people who respond kindly to people who are honest and caring towards them. In my 9 years in business, I have put myself and my business assets into many a situation where I could have been stolen from. I leave product unattended. I go into the homes of people I do not know. I set up interactive displays with no security measures. Yes, we have had things stolen but only very rarely. Many people, particularly security professionals and police tell me I should lock everything away and put security tags on my products and cameras in my store but I believe that would have the opposite effect. When people walk in and we tell them ‘please touch everything, pick up stuff, open the cabinets’, they are surprised and they immediately relax. They know that we trust them and they feel comfortable. This, I believe, has reaped us a return far greater than anything we might have lost.

  • brenda! so beautifully said. yes yes yes!

  • Kim Tanasichuk

    I like this. It’s been my experience too, that money
    needs to be held loosely and there is incredible manifesting power and love
    generating in generosity. I like what you said, “Helping people find their own goodness.

    And then your only role is to keep experiencing happy delight when they do.” Money doesn’t have a hold on you. But I
    notice I feel discomfort as I think about when there are subtle changes in your

    Like the dynamics of tipping in some cases (recently spent time in a Mexico
    all-inclusive. Family thing). The dynamic of rich/poor, of
    middle-aged people getting a week of acting like King/Queen, and feeling oh so
    generous, bestowing their riches upon the workers.

    Or at some street performer or buskers I’ve seen, I got the sense that some
    play upon the “feel sorry for” factor. Like I’m a starving
    artist, feel sorry for me. Some are.
    But there’s something about this that feels like it traps the artist
    community in this role.

    Both look like your model, but are they? In my descriptions I’ve made
    things black and white, and dramatic (and there is always another way to look
    at these situations). But there’s something about deciding what feelings
    are behind how you make money.

    You’re very generous and kind. And it’s very clear you keep the
    underlying feelings in your business pretty clean. So it makes sense that
    people treat you this way because this “delight” is the foundation of what you do. I think the difference is empowerment.
    Making money by internally making yourself lesser than (begging)… feels like
    it’s A WAY of making money, but very unempowering. To match your model, I think cleaning up the internal
    motivations behind the transaction, makes the flow of money feel really good.

  • “Making money by internally making yourself lesser than (begging)… feels like
    it’s A WAY of making money, but very unempowering” I like that. when i can feel that something is being done as a WAY of making money it no longer feels genuine. i feel a pull back. it feels gross. it feels like i’m being tricked. condescending. like they’re trying to be sneaky and get away with something. you might like this post:

  • Kim Tanasichuk

    Pull back, yes. Or I notice I decide whether I talk with the business owner about what I notice, because they may be a good person and just haven’t learned these tools yet. Sometimes I open the conversation with them, and suggest we consciously choose what would be the most empowering business transaction together for both of us.

    And that collapsing/posturing post – Tad, I think it’s my favourite of all of your posts that I have read <3

  • LOVE this post. Surprised it hasn’t gotten more comments. It is genius … from the heart genius.

    Something I shared in another post, I’ll re-paste it again as it’s perfect here:


    Recently I’ve been very inspired by Amanda Palmer’s story. (Street performer turned musician.) She has a TED talk but I liked her NPR radio interview even more:

    The takeaway for me is that, not only do we need to become truly awesome at what we do, so that people really are helped by our work and naturally want to share it, we are also free to *ask them for financial support* — yes, to trust our audience that much. human to human. We don’t need to pretend that we’re making all those sales, if we aren’t. We ask “if my work has had a positive impact on you, would you consider supporting me in my time of need?”

    Amanda suggests, “We usually ‘make’ people pay for music … why don’t we ‘let’ them instead?”

    I encourage everyone to listen to the radio interview above for the full context and inspiration…