Accepting The World As It Is – Tough Choices, Leadership, and Realism

So… my Give Freely Receive Freely experiment has been going for 4 ½ years now.  4 ½ years… that is quite a long time!  You can read what I first wrote about it here: actually looking up this post is how I know how long the experiment has gone on for.

Over that time I have had many ups and downs, as I have gradually moved towards doing more and more of my work on a GFRF basis.  I have documented a lot of this, writing and publishing 77 blog posts over that time.  Of course there has been a lot that has been left out. A lot about experiences, and theory and philosophy that I would have loved to write, but my focus has been on DOING it and not just writing about it. And the reality is that DOING it has been quite hard… so often I haven’t had a lot of time and energy left over to spend writing about it.

It is now time for another review, maybe with a bit of theory and philosophy mixed in 😉

Tough Choices

Over the last little while I have had to face up to some tough choices. You see working on a GFRF basis has really not been covering my costs.  Actually, it hasn’t been for a long time… but I have persisted, because I feel so good about it. It makes ME feel so good, and I feel so RIGHT about working in this way. It has become the natural thing for me to do, and I have a hard time contemplating putting a strict price on things now. But in the end I can’t go on forever not receiving enough to meet my needs.

So the choice I have been faced with is… to either change the way I am doing my work and start to charge for it, or to do something else that will bring me sufficient money so that I can continue to do what I currently do in a GFRF way.

At the moment my main work is teaching qigong both online and in person, or giving treatments using qigong and sometimes other aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Almost all of this I have been doing on a GFRF basis for quite some time now. It is what I really enjoy doing, and the area where I feel I have the most unique expertise, and therefore the most to contribute to the world. It would not be overstating things to say that some of what I do, I am the only person that can do it. That is not to say that I am better than anyone else, but that some of what I contribute to the world in this area is uniquely my own. At the moment though… doing this GFRF does not bring me close to the amount of resources (mainly money as that is the medium of exchange used most of the time) that I need to survive and to thrive.

On the other hand I have a number of opportunities available to me that are quite lucrative, that could earn me a significant income (I am qualified in several areas, and some of the opportunities do not even require any particular qualifications), but they are not in the area of my unique expertise. Some of them are quite mundane really, just about anyone could do them if they chose to – but still quite lucrative.

It has been a bit of a dilemma for me struggling for lack of money and needing to change this… to start to charge for doing what I love, and have the most unique skills in. Or to change my focus to something else that I can earn a LOT more money from – but would take a huge amount of my time and focus, so that I can continue to do what I love on the side… and not have to charge for it.

I have struggled with the decision, as I love qigong and think it has great value for people, but I also believe there is great value in the GFRF concept, and would ideally like to be able to do both. And it would be tempting to shift my efforts and the bulk of my time into something else so that I can continue to do the qigong on a GFRF basis, but by doing that I inevitably would only be able to give far less in the area of qigong as I simply wouldn’t have the amount of time I would like to put into it.

How Effective Is GFRF At The Moment?

There are other factors to consider as well… like how effective the GFRF is for other people.

If I’m honest, at the moment GFRF is mainly good for ME. It makes me feel good and opens my mind and energy in ways beyond the limits of the confined thinking of being constrained by money. BUT… for many of the people I interact with, it is doing them no favours at all. Because in order for them to receive fully… THEY need to give in equal measure. And this has not been happening.  I have had an intellectual understanding of this for a long time, but some relatively recent experiences have really made this principle stand out to me.  When people give a lot – they are capable of receiving a lot. When they do not give, they prevent themselves from receiving. I made reference to some of these experiences in a blog post here: , and here: and I have had several other such experiences on both the positive and negative side since then.

So to REALLY help people – I need to help them to also give suitably so that they can receive…

Four Groups Of Interactions

In my experience with my GFRF experiment I can classify people’s interactions with GFRF into four groups:



The first group is those that maliciously use GFRF to get ‘something for nothing’ they abuse it and think they are getting away with something by not giving anything in return. Some people seem to think that there would be a lot of this. And if you chose to focus on this group, it would certainly seem like a large group.

But if you zoom out a little, you can see that there are other groups as well.


The group of abusers is actually rather small compared with the group of people who do truly understand GFRF. They appreciate what they receive and they give what they can in return. Sometimes that’s a lot, sometimes that’s a little, but it reflects their respect for what they have received and their personal circumstances.

Zooming out further we see another group…



These people kind of think they understand GFRF, or at least they like the idea of it, but in the end they don’t really act on it. They are the group of people who say that for sure they are going to make a donation for some of their training later on… but they just never quite get around it. Or they do make some kind of donation, but it is a token payment, nowhere near the value of what they receive  relative to their circumstances, and this is clear… because they will happily pay much larger amounts of money for similar things, even things of lower quality, but the moment the payment becomes voluntary it becomes a very small fraction of what they otherwise would have paid… and in doing this they do get some benefit, but they actually prevent themselves from receiving most of the benefit that they could have from what they received.

Zooming out further…


The last group of people is the biggest group by far. These are the people who just don’t understand GFRF, or if they do they are suspicious of it, or are just too uncomfortable with it … scared they might pay ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. So they just do not engage with it.  This includes the poor that are worried that they cannot pay enough so they just choose not to do it instead, not understanding that that is the point of GFRF, so that they can access things according to their financial means. It also includes the wealthy who are worried that they might overpay and not get as good a deal as they could – even though they have plenty of resources to spare. It cuts both ways, but either way prevents them from receiving any of the benefit that they could have. Probably the only benefit this group receives from the GFRF, is being confronted by the concept and having to think about it at least for a moment, but then they easily shut it out again.

Overall Effects Of GFRF On The Different Groups

So by operating in a GFRF way…

  1. The first group, the malicious abusers, I am not helping them at all. In fact I am allowing them to harm themselves by abusing others in this way.
  2. The second group, the exchangers – these people are wonderful. GFRF gives them the opportunity to exchange in a more honest and authentic way. It allows them to receive more fully and joyfully. These people are treasures and the world would be amazing if there were more of them. I guess this is a big part of what I have hoped to do by operating using GFRF. By exposing more people to this kind of thinking, help more people to become this way (and I include helping myself to become more like that too).
  3. The third group, the apathetic, the forgetful, the take for granteds. This group fails to receive the benefits and in a way harms me by draining my time and energy while not giving sufficiently in return for it. There is no ill intent, but I am not really helping them effectively by using GFRF, and they surely are not helping me.
  4. The last group, the masses who just don’t get it. By using GFRF I am preventing them from gaining any of the benefits of what I offer… and that’s a shame.

In the end I would love for there to be more of the second group to help make the world a more amazing place. But there simply don’t seem to be enough of them for me to be able to survive on GFRF right now, let alone thrive. To thrive I think I really need to be able to effectively reach a much larger portion of groups two, three AND four, and by doing so help far more people effectively.

Much as it saddens me, I might need to charge set prices in order to do this.

Group one will probably still try to take advantage under any system, so it doesn’t really make much difference to them, although having prices might make it harder for them to do this.

Principle of Leadership – Only One Step Ahead

There is a principle of leadership that I think possibly applies here.  It is the idea that to effectively lead you need to be just one step ahead of those you are trying to help. If you are ten steps ahead, or even three, or even really two steps, it is just too far of a gap for them to follow. It seems to hard or is too difficult to ‘see’ or understand.  For so many people GFRF is just too many steps ahead of where they are currently in their thinking and experience. They have compassion and love for their fellow beings – but they understand and are comfortable with this in limited ways like giving to charities, or maybe having access to a sliding scale for payments or most things being charged for with set prices with only a small amount being made available ‘pro-bono’ or maybe some special scholarships being available for those in need.  But outside of this they much prefer the existing social structures, where some people get paid more and others less, where some people have more comfortable lives and others more difficult. GFRF blows that whole structure wide open and makes EVERYONE equal in financial matters. And for most people that is just too uncomfortable and even scary. They are actually better off exploring charitable giving and receiving in smaller more controlled ways and perhaps in that way edging small step by small step closer towards GFRF or something even better. To make the leap all at once is just too much for them.

So for me to lead effectively in this area as well… I may need to scale back my GFRF efforts in favour of something gentler and closer to what people are familiar and comfortable with.

Is This The End Of Give Freely Receive Freely?

Sooo…. does this mean that the GFRF experiment is over?

I don’t think so. It may mean that it has to take a bit of a hiatus. But having experienced this way of being, even if I never truly fully achieved it, I can’t help but want to go back to it. So I think I will continue to experiment with it. I may just need to do it in smaller more controlled ways for awhile. And as much as possible I want to keep the spirit of GFRF alive within me. To do what I do for the right intrinsic reasons rather than being distracted and doing things in a way that is intrinsically less beneficial but may bring more money. I also want as much as possible to make what I have available to everyone regardless of their financial means – but in a way that allows them to get as full benefit as possible by having them give/pay in return in a way and amount that is meaningful for them.

This could be a bit tricky for setting prices… If my concern was simply to make money, I would price things just for the wealthy as they can afford to pay me more for my effort… But how can I compare pricing for someone in a wealthy country in North America or Europe, with someone living in some of the countries in Africa or small islands of the sea (and yes I do have students in all of these areas, and I want to still be able to reach and give to them).

I suspect in the end I will be able to make it work through the magic of discount codes 😉

To be honest, at this stage I am not completely sure that I will make the change. I still have an inclination to just go a little bit longer with GFRF, just try for awhile more, give it a bit more of a chance to start working better, or try something slightly but not majorly different… but I also think perhaps it is inevitable that I must make this change now. Afterall 4 ½ years is quite a long time. If I was looking at someone else’s situation and they described this to me, I know the advice I would give. I would say in the end you have to follow your heart, but you also have to be practical. You help no-one by not taking care of yourself. So maybe don’t give up on the idea, but perhaps take a break, you can always come back to it in the future…. and perhaps I should take some of my own device.


And… I know that there are others who are now using GFRF thanks to inspiration from this website. So… perhaps the experiment will continue to inspire others to give it a try. And little by little as more people try, we will edge our communities closer and closer to an ideal exchange and interaction. To those still using GFRF – I salute you and wish you the best. If I do make this change, I hope it is temporary and I am able to come back to GFRF more fully again in the future.