Share and win, you get back more than you put in.

I run, quite a lot. I’m lucky enough to live in the South Downs National Park, UK. The running around here isn’t mountainous, but it is challenging. When the milage is high and the hills keep coming, overcoming the mind games you play with yourself is one of the greatest challenges. To help, I have a simple mantra which motivates and focuses my mind when tackling a long climb:

“You get back more than you put in”

In the case of running, the return on investment is instant. For 30 minutes graft climbing a bostal, you’re rewarded with far reaching views of the Sussex countryside, it often feels remote and in solitude you have time for reflection and to just appreciate the awe of natural beauty. Followed soon by a downhill romp, usually through the woods in the lee of the landscape. Shaded and peaceful, these are my favourite stages. Sometimes off piste, always exhilarating. These rewards easily outweigh the effort made to get you there.

I’ve recently noticed that this idea of getting back more than you put in is helping me change the way I contribute to the world outside running.

For years I worked in the music industry, it was a competitive environment where often the only thing which differentiated you from your peers was the quality of your ideas. But in order to capitalise on your ideas, I felt you first had to protect them from being hijacked the minute you shared them. It seemed to create a culture of selfish protectionism and a desire to hold a good idea close to your chest until it was perfect and you were ready to use it and naturally risk it being copied. Ideas were often held so close for so long that they would end up being strangled and never even seeing the light of day.

Inevitable outcome? Eventually your idea would manifest itself anyway, someone else, maybe in your circle, or maybe not, would come up with the same idea or concept. Perhaps timing was better for them, or perhaps they finished it more rapidly but for whatever reason when their idea emerged you were left with that familiar sensation, “I had that idea weeks, months, years ago.. if only I’d released, shared, recorded it it would still be my idea.”

For years I worked on the principle that I should only share an idea or contribute to someone else’s if I knew how I was going to be be credited, or better, paid for it. And so did everyone else.

Roll on a decade or so. I’m no longer involved in music but CEO of a rapidly growing food and retail business. I find I’m part of and contributing to a more generous and productive community of business people.

These days when I approach a conversation with a peer I do so from a very different perspective and the results are positive and rewarding for everyone. With the mantra in mind, “you get back more than you put in” the conversation becomes a collaborative effort to solve whatever problem is in front of us. It might be my problem being solved, it might be someone else’s. It actually matters not. What matters is that the shared capital of ideas, experience and know-how is deployed to solve a problem or answer a question. The outcome is achieved quickly and efficiently, and everyone learns something in the process. Contribute freely and you inevitably get back more than you put in.

Get it out there, share everything, contribute to every conversation. The more you share, the more you gain. There is a continuous churn of ideas and collaboration. Like a blender, the more quality ingredients I throw in, the more great ideas and knowledge I get out. Sometimes they are small enlightening thoughts, sometimes they are game changing ideas that become projects with their own inertia.

Now when I’m smashing my way uphill on a trail the same sentence has even more meaning, is more inspiring, is more rewarding. I’m reminded of collaborations and conversations that have led to outcomes. I process while I dig deep. At the top, after sweat and grit, I get the reward.

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