The Courage To Give

I was on my way to work on my novel when a homeless man came up to me.  He asked me for money to buy food and I gave him what I could. Then, when I was about to leave, the man said:

“It’ll come back to you.”

I was about to answer him, but the man continued:

“Back when I wasn’t homeless, I went to visit Mexico City,” he said. “There was a homeless woman on the street asking for change. I gave her money so she could eat for the day. I thought nothing of it and went on my way. That was decades ago. Then, about two years ago, I was struggling to survive in Las Vegas. I was asking people for money just so I could eat for the day. No one would look at me. They’d all pass me by. All I wanted was a few bucks to eat something for the day. That’s all. Then I looked over and saw this group of men standing a few feet away from me. One of them was headed in my direction, while his friends kept persuaded him against it. Finally, the man went up to me and handed me some money.  I took the money and said thank you.  Then, something told me to ask the man where he was from. ‘Mexico City’ he said.”

There was a twinkle in the man’s eye as he concluded with the moral of his story:

“So, like I said. It’ll come back to you.”

The man said thank you and then left to buy his food for the day.

I wanted to tell the man that I wasn’t interested in having the good deed come back to me—all I wanted was to make sure that he ate that day. But the man felt it was important that I understand that my good deed would one day be rewarded. That helping him was the right thing to do because later on it would directly benefit me.

But I didn’t care whether this act of good benefited me, I thought. I only cared if it benefited him.

Later on I realized that, in that moment, I learned what it truly meant to give.

Revisiting The Idea of Karma

Karma holds a very interesting place in our contemporary imagination. It seems that, without us realizing it, our materialistic culture has successfully co-opted the notion of “Karma” and deformed it until it has taken on the likeness of our materialistic culture.

Getting “Good Karma” has now become the means to an end. We do good because we want to be rewarded with cars, money, status, success. But this idea alludes to our materialistic mindset, and it is at odds with True Karma, which I believe is deeper and more meaningful than our wildest materialistic yearnings.

True Karma will only manifest and do good for you when you have no desire for it to do good for you. This is the paradoxical (and humorous) nature of True Karma. True Karma waits for you to understand that true giving has no personal agenda. It is not about the individual—it is the exact opposite of the individual. True Karma is not based on the need for independence (or dependence) it’s based on the need for interdependence.

True Karma says that when you do good for someone else, the reward is automatic.

False, or Shadow Karma, is linear. You must do a good deed in order to receive a future reward.  Shadow Karma is a journey from “A” to “B” on a number line.

True Karma, however, is circular. Your good deed is the reward. True Karma is a journey from “A” and back to “A” on a number line.

Shadow Karma can take years, decades even, for you to see it manifest as a reward.

True Karma has NO DELAY. The reward of giving is the act of giving itself.

No Good Deed Goes… Unchallenged

It is often said that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

But believing this makes us afraid of doing any good deed because we fear the unexpected consequences of our noble actions. So many people withhold from doing good because they believe their good deed will not help, but only hurt, the current situation.

Recently, I had someone launch a personal attack on me. They said very hurtful and mean things to me. They attacked and undermined my experience, my age, my credibility, my accolades, and my intentions. I was upset at their mean words, but I was more upset because I felt like I had done good but was being punished for it.

This isn’t fair, I thought. I don’t deserve such a vicious, unfair attack.

But then I thought about it more. Was I being punished for my good deeds, or was I simply being challenged for them?

You see, when you do good, it is the nature of evil to do unfair, mean, unjust things to you to confuse you and tear you down–to deter you from doing good.

When you think about it, why wouldn’t evil try to stop you from doing good? That’s what evil does.

It’s evil’s job to discourage you from good deeds, to try to make you despair, to suck away all your hope, to make you bitter, desperate, angry, disillusioned and untrusting of the world. It is in evil’s nature to make you feel weak, helpless, lost, and insecure so you are more tempted to join “the dark side.”

How else would you expect evil to act in the face of every good deed that threatens everything evil stands for?

If negative consequences come as a result of your good-hearted, well-intentioned giving—although it may seem like a punishment at first—don’t be discouraged. In a strange way, this is a good sign.

Because no good deed goes unchallenged by evil forces in this world.

What If I Have Nothing To Give?

There is another misconception about giving:  we believe that a gift must be monetary or material in order for it to be a true gift, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Deepak Chopra rightly points out that a gift can be anything: it can be a kiss, a hug, a kind word, a poem, or a story. A gift does not have to be material, and if we look closely, we may see that even if we feel we have no gifts, we still have something to give.

Mark Nepo tells the story of a woman who survived the Holocaust. This woman said that when she was inside the concentration camps, she carried only two possessions: one was a comb and the other was a piece of bread. The last possession, the piece of bread, was not for her. It was just in case she met someone who was hungrier than her, and needed something to eat.

If a tortured woman in a concentration camp could find something to give others when she had so very little, then we who are more fortunate should find it easy to find something to give as well.

Don’t Ask “What’s In It For Me?” Instead Ask “How Can I Contribute?”

These days I get so many messages from people who want me to sell their book, or promote their products. I try my best to politely say: “No, thank you” to these requests, but what I really want to tell these people is that they’re approaching life all wrong.

These people keep searching for the answer to the question: “What’s in it for me?” instead of searching for the answer to the more pertinent question: “How can I contribute?”

If these people would ask themselves the latter question more often, they might find themselves, ironically, in a place where their books sales would shoot through the roof, and people would arrive in droves to promote their products.

This is because if you start looking for how you can contribute (instead of just looking for what’s in it for you) then True Karma will appear and give you your reward instantly—without you even trying.

This is because there is nothing that separates you and your fellow humans. Our skin is permeable: it has holes for crying out loud! We all breathe the same air, we all eat from the same earth, we all take in the same energy from the same sun. We’re all brothers and sisters. We’re all one and the same.

So giving to someone else is the same as giving to yourself.

That is why there is no delay in receiving the reward of giving.  That is why when we engage in True Karma, there is no delay in the manifestation of its positive impact.

The Law of Giving As It Pertains To Writing

At this point in the process of writing my novel, I can honestly say that I am no longer in pursuit of some grand end result. No, what keeps me going these days is knowing that I am working on a gift I can one day give to my readers.

This is because when our writing becomes an act of giving, we need not search for some reward in the future.

The act of giving is reward enough.

much love,


So… how can you contribute? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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22 comments on “The Courage To Give

  1. melanie says:

    What was once called kindness is now called karma. What was once giving back (service) is now called getting back (entitlement). What matters is not what we do, but why we do it. And ultimately, the only thing that matters is how we ourselves think and react – to any and everything. The rest is just mental angst that has nothing of kindness or service or anything else good contained within it.

  2. Conor Ebbs says:


    My favourite part of this post is your last section. I feel the same way about writing and music. Devotion to creating something worthwhile to give to the world is the most noble pursuit.

    Carry on Sir.


  3. Christina says:

    I swear this week’s posts are exactly what I needed.

    Your point about Karma being twisted and losing its original philosophy is so true!! I hadn’t looked at it that way.

    Did the person who attacked you like that do it over the internet? From what I’m reading on other blogs, this is becoming more and more commonplace because the internet offers anonymity and for some reason it’s taken as some sort of shield where they launch attacks from a protected position, and then it all snowballs.

    Keep up the great work Ollin:)) Whoever upset you should’ve asked us, your readers, how much we value everything you give us.

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you Christina. I’m learning that it’s part of becoming successful. People start to attack you more. I’m telling you, when I had a dozen readers or so, no one cared to attack me. LOL. But now that I have more it seems like they start to pop up. But don’t worry, the vast majority of messages and feedback I get is positive from readers like you. There’s only one or two naysayers. So I don’t pay them no mind and keep going.

  4. lagiou says:

    Olin, you’ve got to know this: You’re simply and inspiringly wonderful. I love your sincerity. I love what you do. I often disagree with you and wonder how come you are still not taking the next step in thinking more deeply, especially in terms of spirituality and law of attraction stuff. But then again I realize that that’s just one of those things I project onto others to avoid dealing with it myself. And then I like your being out there all the more. Thank you for wrapping things up for us in such a clear ‘leo-babautan-style’. Keep up the great work.

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you. Wait, people disagree with me? Well, lagiou, I hope you know that the comments section is were you can voice your respectful disagreement. I’ve had readers disagree with me in the past and voice their disagreement so it isn’t new. So feel free to let me know what point you disagree with me on and maybe we can discuss and my readers can chime in.

  5. 🙂 giving is not trading.

    Personally I always feel honoured when authors ask me to read their book or give them a review. We all know how much love and effort goes into our work. So if you have a popular blog you will get these offers…take it as a compliment and not a burden or request. Otherwise you may fall in the trap you were talking about: Oh, so now people want something from me but I don’t want to give it…I think it’s important to spread the love, then one day it will come back to you when your baby is ready to be launched…but not because you thought of a trade at the time but just because you were really interested in other people’s work (even if they were not famous)… just a thought 🙂

    • Ollin says:

      I understand. But I never said that people asking me to promote them was a “burden.” I simply said that they were approaching the issue the wrong way. They were asking to “take” instead of “give.” If they thought about giving, they might have realized that I have an option for anyone (anyone) to pitch me a guest post. In the past, those looking to promote their books and services didn’t ask me to do so. They asked to write a guest post first, and the guest post contributed to my community, and in return my community responded by buying their products and taking their services.

      When you ask yourself “how can I contribute” you not only open up avenues you did not see before, but you are more successful in promoting your products and services. People do not buy things they don’t feel contribute to their life in anyway.

      I hope that makes it clear what I was trying to say.

      • Hi Ollie,
        It was clear from the start hence ‘giving is not trading’ and I’m not trying to knock your post at all…:)

        I only said ‘don’t take it as a burden’ those are my own words, and were never yours in the first place… and I wanted to shed a positive light on the fact that people choose you and trust you enough to think that you are capable of helping them with their work. I’m from the original myspace generation and the constant spamming with advertising killed it. So I’m totally with you on that one. But it’s this paragraph that sparked my comment off…

        ‘These days I get so many messages from people who want me to sell their book, or promote their products. I try my best to politely say: “No, thank you” to these requests, but what I really want to tell these people is that they’re approaching life all wrong.’

        This made you sound quite hassled and judgemental from a reader’s point of view. It’s only one (my)personal opinion, and I do not proclaim to own the truth…

        Do you consider this gap hunting???

        • Ollin says:

          You are assuming my intentions are not to help people.

          You said that I should promote others just so that further down the line they can promote me. I don’t care about whether they promote me. I care about their success. What I am trying to say is that simply asking people to promote your work will not get big results. What I am saying is that if you ask yourself how to contribute to a blog, then you will get HUGE results. This is not a theory. This is a fact that I’ve seen proven over and over again. In my attempt to help others it seems I have landed in a place where people think I am being judgmental. I can only try my best to help, but if others interpret it another way. What can I do, Denise? I can only try my best.

          • You know what Ollie? I subscribed to your blog because I think you are very idealistic and sweet and never once assumed your intentions are not to help.
            NEVER, ok?
            When people give constructive criticism you grow as a writer so maybe you phrased it in a way that made it possible for you to sound a bit negative (and as I said before it’s only me right?)
            And we are talking about writing her. So let me explain from a writer’s view. For example:
            “I want to tell people they’re approaching life all wrong.”
            That is a judgement and if you had said:
            “I want to tell people that there are much better way of doing this” You open possibilities while saying the same thing. Don’t forget: Everybody is doing their best to their abilities…That is the key, I think.

            I really appreciate what you’re saying about contribution opposed to one sided requests and as I’m preparing the official launch of my first novel (of which I’ve sold over two thousand print copies in person by approaching people in the streets of London and the beaches of of Thailand) I am checking out cool blogs and get to know the people who run them. I am really, really with you there…

            I was thinking about you yesterday and I love how you are so passionate and isn’t art and love all about unconditional giving in the end??

            Please do check out my fbook group below…I think you’ll love it.The most important thing for me is to have FUN. There you can see my ‘guerilla marketing’ technique and readers holding up the book and hundreds of reviews and please do not think I’m trying to ‘promote ‘ myself here. I would like you to see where I am coming from, so you don’t think I’m some judgemental cow who doesn’t appreciate your efforts.
            Quite the opposite!

            I’m reading your blog posts, one by one, but sometimes we have to agree to disagree as well…
            To quote you again:
            I can only try my best to help, but if others interpret it another way. What can I do, Ollie? I can only try my best.”

            So what i’ve learnt is that I could probably phrased my feedback better myself… didn’t want to hurt your feelings at all…have a fantastic sunday Ollie 🙂

            • Ollin says:

              Denise, we simply have to agree to disagree. It looks like we have different opinions about how to promote and different opinions as to how certain words can be interpreted. We can go back and forth for ages, but it seems at this point we are just not gonna be on same page. But no worries. Disagreements happen. We can respectfully disagree without us having to resort to taking it personally. I don’t take what you are saying personally. (I assumed that is not your intention.) But I am passionate about my viewpoint. So I will argue it to the grave. 🙂 But don’t sweat it. Good luck to you!

  6. Thank you, Olin. I had someone tell me the only reason people ask me to review their books, post interviews, guest posts, etc, is because I do for free what others get paid to do. It stung. As Denise said above, I feel honored to assist writers. They are further along their writer’s journey than I am, and they ask for what small part I can contribute. It hadn’t occured to me to think about the end result. I love the new friendships that I am forming, and meeting other writers, if only in cyberspace, keeps me going on my book, and my blog. My following is small, but I can’t wait to finish my book. As you stated, my book may not be a literary piece, but it’s a love letter to those who have given me so much. Keep it up, I have nothing but admiration for you and believe the readers you have are well-earned. Kudos.

  7. inkspeare says:

    Just as the adage says, “Damned if you do; damned if you don’t” – some people will always find a way to twist your good intentions, but that is part of life. Some people may even approach your blog looking for a small gap in the words where they can twist the meaning and throw the whole post right back at you, but that is part of life. It is part of life, but I have also found that the more resistance I find on my path, it also means that I am headed in the right direction. So Ollin, keep going on, keep sharing, keep writing, keep being honest and sincere, keep caring, keep giving to your readers, and eventually the naysayers and the “gap hunters” will get tired and look for other pastures. Darkness will attempt to shadow light, but eventually light breaks thru – you are on the path of light. Blessings.

    • Ollin says:

      “Some people may even approach your blog looking for a small gap in the words where they can twist the meaning and throw the whole post right back at you, but that is part of life”

      The gap hunters. I love this. I think you’ve finally given a name to an issue that bloggers face. Thank you for that. I will use that term if you don’t mind. I have had that before. The vast majority of my comments or responses are people who read my intentions clearly. Then there is always one person who skims the post, gets what they want out of it, and then throws something at me out of context. It’s almost as if they are looking for something to confirm their negative viewpoint of a person or an issue. But it’s never about what I said, it was about what they thought I said.

      Usually I never wrote anything of the sort. But I can always tell these “gap hunters” when the majority of my readers understand clearly and they don’t.

      Thank you for the kind words and I will keep going. 🙂

      • Ollin says:

        Hey, inkspeare. In fact I like your “gap hunter” terminology so much I’d like to invite you to send me a guest post pitch surrounding this topic (that’s if you’re interested in writing a guest post for the C2C.) You can use my contact page or simply send it to Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!

  8. inkspeare says:

    It is an honor, thanks. It will be my pleasure.

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