In the following Manopause Manopod, Mike Essrig and Larry Pollack talked with published author and ‘life-mastery’ coach Mark Fournier to find out what it means to be in ‘The Giving Game’. Here is a summary of their talk:
The Giving Game is a ‘contribution mindset’. And like any mindset, it’s sort of like the soil in which you plant your garden. You can plant your garden in clay, sand, rock, or nutrient-rich soil; the things that grow in your garden will be determined by the ground you put them in.
A mindset is the ‘FRAMEWORK’ for your life and how you live it. The idea of having an attitude of contribution will set you up for playing THE GIVING GAME. So, it’s a game, but it’s a game within a game because ‘Life is a game.’
Think about it; all our needs are met. We have food, shelter, water, and oxygen. So why are we here?
Well, we are here because we are going to make the most of everything we can, and we are going to play The Game of Life. That could be building your career, building your family, climbing Mount Everest, or anything. And one of the games you can play is the game of compassion, which I call THE GIVING GAME.
Yes, and I put it in a story format to make it more exciting and entertaining. And you can also get GIVING GAMES cards; they are like ‘pay it forward’ cards where you anonymously do something for someone and leave this card behind. In turn, ideally, they do something for someone else and leave the same card behind for them, and so on.
We have a website where you can track your card to see how many people’s lives were changed because you changed a person’s life who then felt compelled to change someone else’s life and so on. You can track it all around the world. ‘Where’s my card today and what ‘good’ has it done?’ It’s a little like ‘Where’s Waldo?’
You can get the cards and the books on Amazon, and then there is the website. The website is still in its infancy, but once our mobile app is launched it should take off quickly.
By the way, your good deeds don’t have to be anonymous; in fact, there is a different version where you play the game with a specific individual (like your spouse or kids), and they play it back with you.
I used to say that my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because those two words give you the secret to having the most extraordinary life imaginable. The word ‘Thanks’ is about living in a state of appreciation and gratitude, and the word ‘Giving’ is about living in a state of compassion and contribution.
For the giving part, I started looking at the Science of Giving, and after all sorts of research, I discovered that people who live in a state of contribution, those who have a Giving Mindset, are pleased. The rewards are immeasurable. As I started to see the benefits, I was amazed at how far they go beyond the obvious.
There are Cancer patients, for example, who are playing The Giving Game, who would typically be the recipients. They find out that when they decide not to be ‘victims’ but rather ‘givers,’ they respond better to treatments. Some lie in bed feeling hopeless, helpless, and miserable, and then some get up and start helping others. And you will find out that the ones who are up and trying to make a difference in the lives of others’ are not only happier but also get healthier.
You can easily explain much of it through science and medicine; for example, our state of mind impacts our hormones and neurotransmitters, which, in this case, affect our immune system. And when we give, it not only makes us happier and healthier, but it makes us more appreciative (Thankful), which also makes us happier and healthier.
Most folks tend to compare their lives to those who have more than them, and it causes them to feel worse about their lives. However, when you compare your life to those who have less, it makes you feel better about it. It goes back to ‘Thanks & Giving’; when I contribute to someone with less, it makes me appreciate my life more.
The Giving Game is a way of looking at life as though there are infinite opportunities to make a difference in the world and the lives of others. It can go from a Micro-cosmic scale of mowing your neighbor’s lawn to ‘saving the world.’
It is Limitless in its potential. And we probably want to spend a couple of minutes talking about how you would apply this in your life on both the intimate and limitless scale.
I’ve seen this in Mentorship Programs which are suitable for retiring people who have skills that they can pass on to younger people ‘Give back.’ We have a friend who, as part of his career, has a Tourism thing, that whenever you go to a place and see where you can potentially help, even when he goes to Las Vegas, he contacts one of the local Food Banks and says, ‘hey! Can I volunteer for a few hours?’
So, when he goes to Vegas, he goes to the Foodbank for about 4 hours and helps out. They may not be grandiose, but all those little things add up.
I love that! That is so clever. I will game a system whenever I can to turn it into a Giving Game, which is one way to game your whole life. By playing The Giving Game, you win no matter what. You can’t lose at The Giving Game, especially if you’re playing with someone else.
So, The Giving Game is both a movement and a book. As a book, it’s what is known as an Epic, literally like Homer’s Iliad and his Odyssey. As a writer, I’m constantly challenging myself, so I decided to follow the format of an Epic written in rhyme and meter.
It usually involves some great battles and some great lessons, so in The Giving Game, these villages are at war with one another. It looks like nothing good will come of it, and then, on a smaller scale, there’s a couple in one of the villages whose marriage is falling apart. They lost a child, and it seemed as though there is no way to salvage the wedding, just as there was no way for the two countries to remain at peace.
Of course, if I tell you any more, I’ll give it all away, but I can say it will keep you guessing, reading, and wanting to see how it all turns out. Most of all, it will show you another way of ‘being’.
Some of my books are classic Personal Development books, like Self-Help Me! Change your Habits, Change your Life!, and some disguised as stories. It makes it more fun and enjoyable.
I have a literal version of The Giving Game, and it works like this. In most relationships, we are busy trying to get our needs met, and from time to time, when someone asks for help, we’ll try to help them out. This could also be with our spouse and our kids, but The Giving Game does it differently.
Instead of saying, ‘I’m going to spend 80% of my time getting my needs met and 10-20% meeting the needs of others,’ it says, ‘I’m going to spend 80% of my time helping others get their needs met and only 20% on mine.’ And you might immediately think if you’re only spending 20% on getting your needs met, how are all the other needs going to be met now that you have reduced the time and resources?
Well, you are playing it with other people, so if they spend 80% of their time meeting the needs of others, and you’re spending 80% meeting theirs, then your needs are getting met. They are just getting met by someone else, and it’s not co-dependent because there is no expectation.
You remove the expectation, and it’s just gratitude that puts you back into thanks and giving. I’ve seen relationships blow up, where the idea is ‘my wife did this great thing for me, damn! She’s winning. How can I outgive her? What can I do that will blow her away? She planned this vacation in Vegas; I’m going to design one in Paris!’
I agree with what you are saying, and I think it’s something that has been around for millennia. Maimonides wrote the 8 levels of giving back in the 13th Century and the most honorable way of giving as far as he was concerned is not only anonymous to the person you have given to, but you don’t know who you’ve given to.
And if you think about it, the response you should get to giving is the giving, not ‘hey! I gave to that person, so I helped them’ or for them to say ‘thank you for helping me.’ That can become a slippery slope, but if you are giving without recognition of the person that is getting the gift and you’re not even knowing, there is no chance that you would ever hold it over them.
He thought it was the godliest way of giving, but that was hundreds of years ago. So it’s been known that giving can improve your life for a long time.
I love that you mentioned that version because I did combine the big picture and the anonymous giving; you get the benefit of that, and it can be priceless. On a more intimate level, you get to improve each other’s lives on an ongoing basis.
So I thought, ‘why not take the best of both versions?’ And one of them is anonymous, and then the version was ‘I’m going to give to you with no expectation,’ and if you’re playing the same game, you both wind up with more.
They give you more than you would have given yourself, and you live in total gratitude and contribution. And if you’re a little competitive, it can get fascinating. So at one point, you have done something for the other person and they finally say, ‘I can’t top this. You win’. And when that happens, you guys can go ‘Yay, I won’.
Well, they won because they are the ones that got the thing that you can’t top. You both win, then you start small, and the game starts with the little things, then it escalates until it’s a wonderful cycle of continually trying to figure out, ‘How can I blow this person away?’ ‘How can I make their life amazing?’ ‘How can I do what they haven’t even thought of?’
The whole idea is that giving is a good way to think of life in terms of what you can do. That is it from our side; if you go to TheLimitlessCoach.com you can find a lot more information. You can communicate with Mark and hopefully, that will be an inspiration for something else to do in your life as you are transitioning from whatever career you have now and trying to find something else to do with your life.