Let The Gifting Games Begin 🏁🎁
This post is shorter than most! It’s an invitation to play a game. I tried it and had a blast. I want to share some of my experience and insights.
Table of Contents:
The Inspiration | The Plan | The Results | Integration| Looking Forward
I’ve been flirting with this idea the last couple of years:
What if I woke up tomorrow and spent the whole day trying to create the most love in the world?
Make a friend’s day. Spark joy and magic for strangers. Get creative in leveraging what I have in support of others. Switch out of my head and worrying about my own experience to being in service to all life.
Last Sunday, I decided it was time to try it.
I’m fascinated by different ways of being and knowing, alternative economic models, and new forms of energy exchange in terms of all the different types of capital we have available to us.
Earlier this year I wrote a piece called Reflections on Money In a Time of Transition in which I offered some new stories that were percolating inside of me. The relevant one here is:
3) In each moment we can tap into the infinite potential for value exchange and creation.
The microcosmic example I keep coming back to is when we walk passed somebody on the street, two worlds have the opportunity to collide, tetris and co-create with all the different forms of capital available to each. 13.8 billion years of evolution for this moment.
Imagine if we had ultra intelligent augmented reality glasses or a brain-computer interface to see into the totality of the other person’s experience — their needs, prayers, gifts, stories, offers–and a gamified experience to incentivize us to make this person’s life as awesome as possible. We might identify ways to transfer energy that leave one or both of us better off. We might be able to meet each other’s needs. We might be medicine for each other. A hug, an ear, guidance. Food, money, art. Memory, education, story, guidance, wisdom, love. Those things money can’t buy and technology can’t measure. That don’t require selling life.
What if that’s the point of it all? What if it’s all just a game to create the most love for all life on a moment to moment basis?
Instead, we often opt to close ourselves off to these touch points. Busy, other, different, afraid. We cut off the resources available through the natural flow of life, in focused pursuit of means to generate financial capital to obtain the same resources that are freely available if we are courageous and curious enough to receive them. Missed opportunities for the things the saints and sages tell us are available. Moments that alter the trajectory of the next seven generations.
We often don’t look for or recognize these opportunities because we haven’t cultivated practices of empathy, curiosity, intimacy, compassion, deep listening, and all-win choice making. We often close ourselves off to initial connection in the first place because of stories of separation that live in our consciousness and generate feelings of anger, hatred, judgement, fear.
We are constantly missing opportunities to split the atom of possibility and unlock value for all.
Perhaps our greatest opportunity is to recognize our own power and get creative in finding the most inspiring ways to bring more love into the world in each moment.
Energy wants to flow. There are real opportunity costs to holding onto abstract financial capital, which is often creating harm somewhere in the energetic supply chain and taking up space that could be creating more love, creativity and connection in the world.
When energy gets stuck, it causes illness. In a sense, moving energy around is akin to doing financial healing work. Together, we have the power to heal and transform our money systems.
With additional nudges from a new gift economy experiment I am participating in, recent inspiration from reading Adam Robinson’s Winning At The Great Game and Claudio Naranjo’s Healing Civilization and Alan Lew’s This Is Real And You Are Completely Unaware, Burning Man’s 10 Principles, and space in my schedule and a general desire to support others amidst the challenging conditions of this season in our civilization’s life, I committed to taking Monday off to play this game on the streets of New York City — the place of my birth that I had not visited in nearly a year.
I brainstormed a short list of actions I could experiment with to “make somebody’s day” such as:
- Giving strangers compliments, flowers, food, clothing, money, motivational stickers, sprays of rose water, photos, metta
- Asking for advice, recommendations, directions
- Following “rules” such as keeping my phone turned off, obeying all pedestrian traffic signals, being open to strangers leading me in obscure directions
- Leaning into personal edges around holding eye contact, walking more slowly, listening deeply to somebody’s story
As I prepared for the big day, I noticed how much pressure I was putting on myself to have this be an overwhelming success. I found solace in telling myself that even the act of interacting with one new person would be a big step forward, and that the impact of whatever happens may not be revealed for some time. I trust life.
Whew! What. A. Day.
I’m not quite sure how to properly recap. It feels like it could be powerful to narrate the day through the different encounters and places, but something feels off to share stories that I didn’t ask permission to, even if I changed names and details.
It also feels funny to make a list of highlights and learnings. So are we just talking about trading off depth of feeling for digestibility? Hmm.
Welp. I’ll start with a list.
- The first person I approached in Harlem turned into a 30 minute deep dive into all the curveballs life has been throwing. Turns out they had been praying for support moments before I walked over to say hello.
- I spoke with unhoused people more than I have in my life combined to date. Sat down. Broke bread. Gave presence. Heard stories. Learned.
- Making my first sign (see above) and attracting several sages!
- Giving out flowers (zinnias). Such a joy hack!
- Meeting Jesus in Union Square Park and attracting a spontaneous group of five to discuss current events.
- Creating an all-win outcome during a kerfuffle in Washington Square Park between the park police and somebody selling masks.
- As a result of my giving, receiving food, discounts, psychic readings. I’d loop back to certain areas and be hollered at as if I was part of the crew. It felt at times as if the world was cheering me on.
- Synchronistic moments like walking by somebody right as they voiced that they just busted their bike tire and didn’t know how to come up with $XX to fix it.
- Learning a lot about myself in the process. Subtle insights around growth edges, biases around race and class and gender, listening, staying present in intensity, integrating healthy shame.
- Serendipitously bumping into a good old friend while watching the sunset.
- The brief moments of eye gazing we shared as a magic encounter concluded.
- It’s easier to create connection with strangers when I have a physical object to give or a rehearsed opener. What if I didn’t employ any of that? Challenge for next time.
- The game takes a lot out of you! I started around 9pm and by 4pm I was wiped. Needed to come back to myself. Maybe it’s best designed as a half day thing, or with a big break in between.
- God is the talk of the town. A majority of my interactions ended with a “God Bless!” salutation. Advice revolved around God. The solution to our intractable problems? God. How to find love? God.
- Turning on my phone at 4pm totally ruined the game. Too distracted. Not open enough to my surroundings. Not as inspired to help others.
- There’s a clear tradeoff between transactionality and magic. If my goal is just to give food to somebody and then move on, it closes the door to possibilities. If I stay in the interaction a few minutes or even seconds longer, that’s where the connection and magic is.
- Discernment is key — when to slow down, when to set boundaries (e.g. if somebody wants my contact info), when and how to gracefully exit an interaction.
- So much social connection is available all the time. And, not everyone wants connection in any given moment. That’s okay. Nothing to take personally.
- IT’S SO EASY TO MAKE SOMEBODY’S DAY. Simply the power of your presence can be healing. Especially for those feel ignored and avoided by the world.
- I can’t assume anything what somebody wants or needs. Sometimes support is not wanted, or not wanted in the ways I think it is.
This game definitely requires integration time. Solitude, journaling, sharing stories, synthesizing takeaways.
I realize I tend to move through the world as a consumer. Taking taking taking. This day felt like I switched over the the creator side. Giving giving giving. I HAVE SO MUCH TO GIVE. I created joy and inspiration and connection, activated idle resources, injected money into the local economy, created art, created unlikely friendships, tried on different personalities. I felt present, alive, centered, in flow.
As an introvert, connection is scary. Especially with strangers. I’ve long struggled with social anxiety and felt insecure about my communication skills. Having a context to do lots of things that scare me was extremely empowering. I’m reminded of this quote:
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”
― Terence McKenna
We hear this all the time — give to receive. Giving feels good. It’s the little things that count. Everything you want is on the other side of fear. On Monday, nature rewarded me with memories, compliments and reflections, flow, abundance, more courage, new friends, being asked out, adventure…
Which is literally all the things I really want! A week before I had been prompted by a friend to write a personal guide of things may reliably bring joy into my life:
My 10 Commandments for Joyful Living
🌳Nature — Be in nature. Learn from nature. Take naps there. Feel the earth under my feet, and the wind and sun and water on my skin.
⏯ Pause — Take pauses throughout the day. Slow down at all time fractals. Rest. Sit with emotions.
🎈Play — With enthusiasm, strive to create fun and delight for others. Give gifts.
💙Self Love — Practice loving myself fiercely through movement, meditation, nourishment, affirmations.
★ Choice — Remember I have choice in each moment. Say ‘NO’ to more things. Make effective choices (supporting creativity, experience, wholeness, integrity; self and world).
🌸Beauty — Write. Make art. Learn to play music. Point out beauty to others.
🙏🏼Sacred — Pray. Make offerings. Approach every day like a ceremony.
😹Joy — Cuddle. Eat/make/share treats. Spontaneity. Birds. Lean into each moment and every encounter expecting magic or miracles.
🏥Service — Keep inquiring: what of the undone is mine to do next? Where can my energy flow to support life?
🤗Belonging —Whenever possible, connect with others. Find points of connection with all I encounter. Cultivate community.
I didn’t have this list in mind when I went out into the world to play the game. It was delightful to look back and realized I had hit on most of these things! Whereas other days I may have hardly scratched a couple.
I love that I tried this in the middle of the Days of Awe (the ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur), when it is believed that our actions have the power to alter God’s decree.
I love that this was one of dozens of“projects” I have swimming in my mind, and the least obvious in terms of “productivity” or career progression. As I’m shedding more of this “colonizer urgency” and “Messiah energy” and “white savior complex,” it feels refreshing to channel my energy into something selfless, nonlinear, counter intuitive, creative, qualitative. We don’t have good ways of measuring things like love, joy, connection. Yet it seems to be in high demand..
Last summer, Charles Eisenstein encouraged a group of us to consider the magic of pausing to watch a butterfly is as significant in the larger scheme of things as some more conventional metric of institutional impact that we are scrambling to create. It makes me wonder what would happen if I integrated more of this game into my daily flow / life purpose. What would that look and feel like?
It also makes me wonder how we can redirect the energy that our economic system structurally compels us to exploit each other and the rest of the living world.
What if all the skills and energy that men put into playing video games and picking up girls was channeled into making a stranger’s day?
I’m reminded of the Potlatch tradition practiced by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Many people believe that a rich and powerful person is someone who has a lot. The people who speak Kwak´wala, the Kwakwaka’wakw, believe that a rich and powerful person is someone who gives the most away. Since a time beyond memory, the Kwakwaka’wakw have been hosting potlatches and potlatching continues to play a central and unifying role in community life today.
How can we integrate this Potlatch spirit into our daily lives?
Finally, I’m struck by the moving meditation quality of the experience. By that I mean there were many times throughout the day in which I would catch myself straying from the intention to be present with my surroundings and open to emergence. I would get caught in story or planning or worrying and then realize “Ah! I’ve totally stopped playing the game. Alright — let’s get back into it.” Which for me puts it in a class of moving meditation modalities such as Qi Gong or 5 Rhythms. With a dash of “social meditation” like Circling.
“To increase the potentiality of joy, one must increase the actuality of the intensity of interaction.
One’s ability to experience joy is proportional to the strength of one’s willingness to remain present in the potentialities of the unknown.”
Let’s do this again!
Some things I’m tracking for future game days:
- I’m excited to do this with others — friends, teammates, dates. I’m tempted to make it a regular tradition — annually, maybe monthly. Perhaps teams at your office can try it. Students in your class. Coaching clients. Create a retreat around it. Do it on vacation. Pass it on!
- I want to get more creative in how I support others, in non-material ways.
- I want to push myself to stay in the connections a bit longer.
- I want to be even more surrendered to spontaneity in terms of where I’m physically guided to.
- I want to print stickers to give out (e.g. the “You Are Beautiful” ones).
- I want to keep multiple items in my bag at all times that I can have on hand to give out.
- I want to play with the signs-as-art piece thing. Thinking about something on Wall Street soon related to starting conversation around the evolution of business school education.
What ideas do you have? Let me know!
In light of growing wealth inequality, proliferation of mutual aid networks and crowdfunding tools, pandemic-response experimentation in all sectors of society.. I’m curious what the world would look like this if we gamified love and giving some more. Could we shift culture towards community and interdependence?
We live in interesting times. I’m in a life transition and don’t know where things are headed. Wondering what’s mine to do. I recall from January that my intention is to be present for these times. Living more day by day. Showing up for the people I love. Supporting where I need to. Listening to my heart.
I’ll vote, I’ll encourage civic engagement, I’ll hold lots of space for conversations on politics. And I’ll do what feels most true and natural for me. Maybe that has something to do with playing this game more in key times and places in a moment of peak fear and uncertainty (e.g. DC in early November).