Universal Law – Learning From Bad Experiences

I am on my way back from my North and South America qigong teaching tour.  The workshops have been offered on a GFRF basis wherever possible, but I have also left it up to the local organizer to make arrangements as they see fit. This has led to a range of different systems including some where they have had a ‘minimum’ donation and encouragement to GFRF as well, some with a set price and others with a price or option to GFRF instead.

Good Experiences

I have had many wonderful experiences meeting generous, thoughtful and conscientious people of high personal integrity. For these people GFRF works well and is a wonderful way to interact. The exchange may be great or small, but the freedom of it has a certain beauty and authenticity which I think benefits all parties involved. Freedom is to be highly valued and I think helps those participating to truly engage with what they are doing on a deeper level and thus derive greater value from it.

Bad Experiences

Unfortunately have I also had many experiences which were not so good, with people who just decided that GFRF meant something for nothing, or for very little or far less than what they would pay for other things.  I find this attitude a little puzzling as if it is really of low value – why would they waste their time on it?  I would go further to say that there were several instances where I was used, abused and seriously taken advantage of.  There seem to be a lot of people that simply cannot (or choose not to) engage with the concept of GFRF with integrity.

Over the years I have been experimenting with GFRF I have encountered this with increasing frequency.  When I began to offer my clinical services on a GFRF basis, for the most part people gave about what they would have previously, with some giving a bit more, others a bit less, or even a lot less due to their circumstances – which is kind of the whole idea of GFRF, with only the occasional person ‘taking advantage’ of the system by giving very little when they could clearly afford much more.  And that was to accept a little of the bad with the good, as it enabled me to engage with people in this more authentic and beautiful way.  But over time the frequency of these more ‘negative’ experiences increased until they actually started to outnumber the good ones!?!~?!/!?!

The same goes for the online training that I offer. I get so many emails from people saying how they love what I am doing and they are planning on donating soon… … … … … and then they never do.  I wonder why they bother sending me the email of their plan to donate if they are not going to follow through? Almost all of those who are going to donate, just go ahead and do it! I then hear from the AFTER they have donated, or maybe not at all.

I have had so many conversations with people in various contexts saying how much they love what I am doing, how high the quality of my services are (whether it be clinical treatment, online instruction, or after a workshop) and even how much better they are than other services that they also use, while in the same conversation they also tell me of the quite large sums of money they are paying for these other services or other things, when they give me a very small fraction of this… Where is the disconnect???

My commitment as part of my working with the GFRF concept has been to accept whatever comes in the form of payment/donation without judgement. This has been very difficult at times to converse with someone calmly without judgement who is blatantly taking advantage of me. Emotionally the ego wants to respond, as the other person is in a very real way undermining my wellbeing. Sometimes it feels like an actual attack on myself and even physically and psychologically painful, which it is in away.  They have taken what I have to offer – which is usually my time, skills and knowledge, but really this is no different from taking my physical possessions, and by not giving in return for what they have received they are taking away my ability to provide and care for myself. They are also taking away my ability to continue to provide my services to both themselves and others.  What is not cared for and treated with love and respect withers and dies – if not immediately, then eventually.  We see this all the time in the world around us – one example being the natural environment… Yet I have been committed to persisting and accepting without judgement.

Learning from bad and sometimes painful experiences

I was having one of these types of conversations with someone after a workshop (for which they gave nothing), staying calm and neutral and trying not to pass judgement, when I felt something ‘click’ in my head. It almost felt like an actual click. There was a specific moment when suddenly something felt different inside. I didn’t immediately understand what it was, but I continued to ponder on it and realized that I had finally opened a new perspective and a new understanding on Giving and Receiving freely.

I realized that this person would not, and in fact COULD NOT receive the benefit from the workshop that they had just attended, because they had not given in return for it.

Universal Law

In my qigong workshops I often talk the laws of physics and that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, for every force an equal and opposite force, as I explain how the exercises work and how we channel and direct these forces within our bodies for our benefit. I am now convinced that there is a Universal law that on a what could be termed ‘spiritual’ level we can not receive what we do not give in equal measure for. If it were not so, the universe would be out of balance and come apart.

The amount given has nothing to do with it, it is the value of what is given to the giver that determines the value what they are capable of receiving in turn. The classic example in the Christian Bible is of the widow’s mite where a poor widow donated two mites (the smallest of coins) to the treasury of the church and Jesus pointed out that relative to here means she had given more than the wealthy who had given large sums of money.  This in turn meant that she could receive more. The giving needs to be relative to the means of the giver because it then reflects the value that they are investing on a deep level into the giving.  Without sufficient investment they cannot truly receive on a deep level.

Sometimes people seem to think they are ‘giving’ by thinking nice thoughts about something, or by talking about it. But most of the time they are fooling themselves when they do this. They are creating an illusion within themselves that they have given, and so the nature of their receiving will be illusory as well. If they want to receive tangibly, they need to give tangibly according to their means as well.

Focus on the Receiving?

This has given me a new perspective on GFRF. I am currently giving my all, and have very much wanted to focus on this giving without focusing too much on the receiving.  But I now realize that for my giving not be in vain I need to also focus on how to have others give sufficiently so that they can fully receive the benefits of what I am offering. I have struggled a bit with this in the past as I have been very aware that by working in a GFRF way, I am reducing the number of people that I reach with my skills and knowledge as so many people are too uncomfortable with the idea of GFRF to engage with it – so they don’t take up my services. And yet I have still wanted to work in a GFRF way to find those who do ‘get it’, and also for what it does for me. It helps me to purify my intent and motives. It means I focus on the underlying real intrinsic value of what I am doing instead of focusing on the sometimes false or distorted financial value. I can do things for the right reasons based on love, instead of for the sometimes wrong reasons based on fear and insecurity.

It has also given me a new perspective on setting prices. I believe that those people who choose not to engage with my services due to discomfort with GFRF are usually people with personal integrity, but with fear of interacting outside of the normal price based system. They don’t trust themselves to get it ‘right’. They want to respect and value what I do and pay me fairly, but they also don’t want to give more than they should/can, and considering this becomes too difficult, so they just opt out of it all together.  I would like to encourage these people to trust themselves more and fear less and give GFRF a try. I think the world would be better for it.  But if they will not engage on these terms, then having a price gives them a way to receive value in a way that they are comfortable, but it also perhaps puts a cap on how much value they will receive as they then will usually only give the price set and not more, which in turn stops them from receiving more.

For others having a price can even perhaps work as a kind of Karmic/Cosmic protection. If the upside benefit of receiving is limited by how much you in turn give, then surely there are also negative consequences for those who do not give as they should. Whether this be through carelessness or outright using and abusing, I am sure there are consequences in order for the universe to remain in balance. By having a price and using this to prevent people from using and abusing, in a way you are protecting them from these negative consequences.

These insights are valuable to me as I now feel much more comfortable about putting a price on things if I need to, because with this perspective I can now do this out of love for the other person and with their wellbeing in mind, rather than out of fear and thinking about myself getting enough.

But what then about those beautiful, magical free interactions with people who do understand and ‘get’ GFRF? What about those who only have ‘two mites’ but for them this is a lot? What about those who have a lot and can receive more by giving more?

I wonder if there is a way to have essentially a two tier system. A price for most people, but a way for those that ‘get it’ to interact using GFRF. This might not be so far different from how kung fu and qigong teachers operated in the past, where most students had to pay a set price, but those with a particularly close relationship instead just gave ‘gifts’ reflecting the value of what they learned and their relationship. Over time students could move from one group to the other.  Something for me to think about…

It isn’t over

I haven’t given up on experimenting and trying work with GFRF. I am committed to continuing to do as much GFRF as I can through the rest of this year, and particularly as I travel teaching qigong in Europe and other parts of the world. I feel I have more to learn and experience yet.  I am greatful for the insights I have received though, because as it stands each leg of my travels so far have cost me more than I have received in return (and I have kept my expenses to the ABSOLUTE minimum), so it is likely that I will need to change how I do things in the future, as by definition something that costs more than it returns is unsustainable in the long run – I simply won’t be able to continue it in this way as I won’t have funds to pay my expenses. I have kept living in hope that I will find enough people who ‘get it’ so that I can continue to work in as pure a GFRF way as I can, but given my experiences to date this seems unlikely. Those who ‘get it’ seem to be outnumbered by those who don’t by… I’d say about 100:1.  If any of you reading this are the ones that ‘get it’ I would like to thank you for being you and the GFRF interactions we have had, you are truly a rare and precious individual. There is still time to learn more and find different options of how to do things… I will see what the rest of the year brings.

Writing about negative things

As you can probably tell, the negative experiences I have had using GFRF have built up over the years. I have been hesitant to write too much about these as like most people I prefer to focus on the positive. And I think that is the right thing to do. We draw towards us what we focus on. This sometimes leads people to take a fanciful view of things though. There are many people who just assume that everything is going wonderfully and must be great because I am using GFRF – these are usually also the type of people who say they are going to donate ‘soon’…

But part of my commitment to GFRF is to right about it honestly, so that others can learn from my experience. Even if I don’t succeed, others can gain inspiration from my efforts, or even just lessons on what to do differently. So I feel good about letting people know that it isn’t all moonbeams and stardust, and rainbows and unicorns (the more practical minded already know this, those that do donate tend to assume that the whole GFRF is bloody hard but they at least respect me for giving it a go), particularly now that I can in a sense turn these bad experiences into a ‘good’ through the insights I have had about Universal Law.

Is the universe out of balance, or have I received?

So if this giving and receiving thing is truly a Universal Law, is the universe still in balance? Financially I have not received anywhere near what I need to survive for my efforts in my clinical work, online training, and many of my workshops and travel, but have I perhaps received in other ways? I think I certainly have. I have met wonderful people who I otherwise would not have. I have had many insights about my own qigong practice that I also think I would not have otherwise had. And as I have traveled I have had marvelous experiences interacting with and working with the earth’s energy in different geographies. Some of these experiences I think have come as a direct result of my commitment to giving freely. If this were not the case I think I may have been able to experience the earths energy but not interact with it in the way that I have. This has led to further enhancement of my abilities which I don’t know if I could have achieved in another way. In a way I think this is a gift back from the universe, keeping things in balance. I just hope that somehow financially things are able to come into balance in the future as well.

A bit long and rambly, but this is where things are at with my experimentation with GFRF 🙂 I’m sure I will have further updates in the future.


Other People Doing GFRF

I just received an inspiring email.  It is from someone who came across my online qigong courses and has begun using them.

Her name is Michelle, and she also uses the GFRF concept in her work!

I always find it inspiring to find and hear about people doing similar things.  I often find it challenging dealing with so many people who think the Standard Economic System way and who struggle to understand GFRF, but whenever I find other people using GFRF or similar ideas – it is an affirmation to me that I am not alone.  Other people are also thinking in this same way, and not only that – they are putting their thoughts and aspirations into tangible action.

For me each of these people are like little sparks of light brightening the world.  As more and more sparks appear, the world becomes a lighter place and it becomes easier for all of us to see a world of love and compassion.

Michelle recently wrote a blog post on here website about GFRF (she calls it pay what you like – as I often do too when describing it to people) where she mentions some other businesses and people using these concepts as well.  You can check it out here.

I have also listed her services in the directory page here.

GFRF in nature

I came across this video clip from a comedy show where the guest pointed out that GFRF is the natural order of nature.  It is so great to see people discussing these ideas and also doing things to live more in this way.

I thought it was worth a watch, so here it is.

Focus On The Giving

Lately I’ve been thinking about some of what I do on a Give Freely Receive Freely (GFRF) basis and how I feel about it, and how I feel when I interact with others about it.

Sometimes communicating to someone about GFRF goes really well, it is easy and they get it.  Many other times it is awkward and they are a bit uncomfortable about it and really want me to just tell them a price – which kind of defeats the purpose to some extent.  I have wondered about why it feels so awkward sometimes and I think I have at least a bit of an idea why.

Giving And Receiving Are Both Important But…

I think part of it is to do with communicating that I am giving something to them, with no price attached, but I am also expecting something back from them.  I think the message gets confused somewhere in there.  They then seem to think that how much they give back will be judged and they have anxiety about how much to give etc.

In starting to experiment with GFRF at first I have put quite a bit of emphasis on explaining the exchange relationship, because for many people it is an unusual idea.  But the more I do it, the more I want to focus on just giving and not so much on the other person giving back.

This is interesting because I need to receive.  I am not independently wealthy and need to receive back financially in order for me to be able to continue my work and sustain myself, yet somehow setting the expectation of receiving back doesn’t feel quite right, or at least not as good as I would like it to be.

Giving More Freely

I wonder if I focus more on just giving freely myself, the receiving may take care of itself.  I wonder if naturally as a result of myself giving more freely, others will reciprocate in giving more freely as well, without having to be told or have it explained to them.

This is certainly what I feel like doing, so I am going to give it a try.

What I’m Doing About It

With my clinic work… not much, I’m reasonably happy with how that is going at the moment with GFRF.  Maybe I’ll make some changes in this area later.

The area that I will be changing things right away is with my online qigong courses.  I will be de-emphasising the GFRF aspect of the courses and just giving them away free.  I will still have donate buttons available for people to donate if they choose to, because I need to be open to receiving back and I need to have an avenue open for this to happen via.  There will still be a link to this site for anyone who is interested in the thinking behind why I am doing what I am doing, but I won’t put as much effort into explaining the two way exchange on the pages of the courses, I will just leave it up to individuals to give back if they want to.

It’s Still An Experiment

Of course this whole thing is still an experiment for me.  I expect there is still a lot to learn, and I expect I will tweak and change lots of things and I continue to try living GFRF.  I look forward to seeing what happens with this latest tweak.

One Year of GFRF – a review

Well it has been a little over a year since I began my experiment with ‘Give Freely Receive Freely’, so I thought I should post a bit of a review of the year.

Clinic Work

I began by choosing to offer my clinic services on a GFRF basis.  You can read what I first wrote about that here.  I was quite nervous about this, and not really sure what to expect.  But I felt good about it, so I put it out there and have stuck to it throughout the year.

Over the year I have found that on average I am probably a little busier in the clinic than I would have been previously. Payments have varied quite greatly, which is as it should be as people have greatly varying financial means, but overall I would estimate that the average payment has probably been a little higher than it would have otherwise been.

I have become more and more comfortable with this type of exchange over the year, but with each new person exposed to it there is some initial discomfort as they need to have it explained and so on.  Many people, even those who really like the idea, still ask that I tell them some kind of price to begin with.  This isn’t ideally in keeping with the GFRF philosophy, but my purpose is also not to make people uncomfortable either, so I generally tell them a price range to help them initially.

I have enjoyed working on this basis as it helps me to see people and their true needs more clearly and to think less about the payment I will receive for the work.  It helps me to focus more on providing them with what they really need rather than on what they are willing to pay for.

After using GFRF for awhile in my clinic, I wanted to expand it out into other areas of my work as well.

Online Courses

The next area I tried to use GFRF in was for an online qigong course I was developing.  I had previously offered this as a home study course and figured that by reformatting it and putting it online, I would not have the costs involved in printing manuals and DVDs etc, which would make it possible for me to offer it GFRF even if no-one paid me anything in return for using the course.  So my first online qigong course went live in August last year.  There is a blog post about it here.

The plan was always to develop a series of online courses, and I had ideas about trying different ways of setting them up to see which was most effective for receiving payment using GFRF.  I wrote about this in an earlier blog post here. My plan with my next online qigong course was to set it up behind a ‘pay wall’ people could still pay whatever they like for the course, but they couldn’t have access to it without registering and entering a number – even if that was zero.  This would create a strong prompt to make payment.

As the end of 2012 approached I really wanted to get the next qigong course online, but every time I thought about doing it and setting it up with a pay wall, it was like darkness filled my mind and I couldn’t bring myself to make progress.  How much of that was to do with not having the technical know how to set up the paywall (this would have required research and learning new skills) and how much was due to a subconscious aversion to walling off access to the course in this way – I don’t know.  But then I decided to go ahead with just putting the course up with unrestricted access and all my mental blocks just cleared away.  I ended up working long hours right through what was going to be my Christmas holidays and just got the first weekly installment of the course online by New Years day.  Additional work after that allowed me to keep up a weekly schedule of course updates until the whole course was online.

Since then I have put a third course online, also with completely unrestricted access.  You can find all three courses here.

I feel really good about having the courses online and freely available for people to use, and I have received some really lovely feedback from people of how they have benefited from the courses, but payments have been very slow to come in.  I have several more courses I would like to put online, but each one takes a significant amount of work to plan and prepare the instructional materials.  Not being independently wealthy, I have to fit this in around my other work and I need to prioritize to some extent those things that will pay me because… I have to eat and pay rent and so on.  For me to be able to put the time into more courses I will need to find a way to receive more for that work than I have so far.

I think a lot of it comes down to communication.  People are not used to the GFRF way of exchange so they don’t go out of their way looking for a way to give for what they have received.  I have some simple ideas of things I can try to encourage more people to give for the courses, and I may even need to revisit the idea of a paywall.  I think there is potential for it to work, but it might require some experimentation and refinement.

Classes and Workshops

I decided to try GFRF with some of my workshops and classes as well.  I did a few workshops completely GFRF,  but found it was a real hassle explaining to each person who wanted to come along, and I also got the feeling that maybe more people would have come if there was just a set price, so more recently I have run my workshops with set prices and the option of GFRF – which has worked ok, but I still get the impression that some people find even that uncomfortable.

I also ran a series of qigong classes at the beach over Summer GFRF, and really enjoyed it.  I have thought long and hard about expanding GFRF into the other classes that I run, but haven’t felt comfortable to do this.  I think there are many reasons for this, but that would take a whole blog post by itself to explore.  Instead what I have done is offered some of these classes GFRF on an underground basis – you can read about that here.  A few people have taken up this offer and I have felt really good about that.


It has been an interesting year.  I really like exchanging with people on a GFRF basis. I think that it helps me to look beyond some of the constructions and preconceptions that are common in society and see people more as they really are.  I think it helps me to be kinder, more compassionate and patient.  I think it helps me to have greater respect for people and treat everyone more as an equal.

Experimenting with GFRF has opened my mind to viewing many things in ways I would not have before.  In some areas I think it has helped me to ‘see behind the curtain’ of societal conditioning – so much of which has an economic basis.

I feel like there is great potential for interacting with people in this way.  I think there is potential to help me be a better person and have better relationships.  I think there is potential to solve many problems in society if this were adopted broadly.

I would like to write more about both the potential of broader application of GFRF and the very personal psychological insights that have come from using it, but find it difficult as I am so busy with the rest of my work.  In the end I think it is probably more important that I live it than that I write about it, but still I think there is value in the writing if I can find the time.

The biggest challenge with GFRF so far is that people are often uncomfortable with it.  It is so diametrically opposed to how many of use have been brought up to view our interactions with the world that many people have a hard time interacting with it.  I wrote about this here.  Trying to operate GFRF in this environment has been tough in some ways, but I see enough potential in it that I want to continue with my experimentation and see if I can become better at communicating this and achieve better results with it.  I will try to keep you posted 🙂

The battle between labour and capital

I just read and article in the paper about a groups push to establish a ‘living wage’ in New Zealand.

It was an interesting read and you can see it here

I liked that the approach they are taking is about appealing to the conscience rather than relying on legislation to enforce their aims.  Underneath the whole issue though is this idea of capital and labour each struggling against each other to get the most they can.

I read things like this and it makes me sad.  Sad that we have organized our society in such a way that this opposition and struggle is inherent in almost all our relationships.  I don’t think it has to be that way though.  I think that collectively we can re-imagine how we relate to each other and reconstruct our society so that co-operation is this norm.

Moving in this direction will require fundamental change in not only our societal institutions, but also in each of our individual attitudes, habits and ways we see the world.  Things that we take for granted as obvious ‘truths’, particularly in how we need to interact with others, would need to be discarded and a new point of view taken up.  This might be scary at first, as it would mean moving from what we know – and while it is problematic – has become ingrained in us, to something that will probably seem strange and unfamiliar to begin with.  I think making the shift will be worthwhile though, and I think there are a lot of people leaning in this direction and trying to find how they can make a change.

I think if not GFRF itself, at least some of the ideas behind GFRF could be part of this change towards a happier, co-operative rather than competitive society.


To benchmark or not to benchmark…?

I have been thinking a bit lately about using benchmarking in conjunction with Give Freely Receive Freely offerings.  This could potentially address a number of challenges people have with GFRF.


Perception of value

One of the challenges with GFRF in this status driven, money oriented, marketing focused, accumulation crazy, money centric society we live in is that a lot of the time people take price as an indication of quality or value of something that is offered.  All too often price is an entirely inadequate indicator, but nonetheless it is there deeply rooted in a lot of peoples psyches.

With this deeply entrenched thinking, when people encounter something which they can have for ‘free’ (GFRF), unfortunately I think many of them assume a lower quality or value is being offered.  This can lead them to not take full advantage of what is being offered – instead going for something that has a price that matches their expectations of the value they wish to receive.

I think with time and exposure people can overcome this bias as they realize that just because they can get what is offered for free, this does not equate to low quality or value.  In fact GFRF provides the ultimate conceptual counterbalance to this perception – there is no upper limit to what you can choose to pay (give in return) for something received on a GFRF basis either.  In a way I think over time this could lead to perception of higher value for GFRF offerings than offerings with set prices because the offerer is also giving you something else – Freedom to assign value as you see fit.  What price do you put on freedom in any of its forms?  I think it is very valuable.

But still, this shift requires a change from what is the predominant mode of current thinking and having a benchmark price can give a receiver a starting point in determining value.  They still then have the freedom to choose to assign a different value to it outside of the benchmark indication if they wish.

Input costs

This leads to another challenge with GFRF that benchmarking can address.  A customer (receiver) generally does not have a full appreciation of the cost of the inputs involved in providing what they receive (rent, labour, materials, R&D, taxes, administration, communications etc etc), so they don’t know if what they pay for it will even cover the cost of provision or whether it may actually cover the costs many times over.

Benchmarking can address this by giving an indication of an exchange level that covers the givers costs and provides them with what they need to be able to comfortably continue providing what they offer.  Receivers can still choose to give less or more than this according to their personal circumstances and their desire to provide additional support, see the venture grow and expand, express gratitude etc.

Freedom discomfort

In my experience a lot of people like the idea of GFRF, but when confronted with actually doing it find it very uncomfortable – perhaps due to some of the reasons discussed above.  They don’t want to rip off the person giving to them but don’t know how to assign a value to what they have received without some kind of external direction.  In the end I usually help these people out by giving them some kind of idea of what I used to charge when I had set prices, what other people charge for similar services etc.

A benchmark would probably help these people to come to a price point they are comfortable with a lot more quickly and easily, but this then leads into some of the downsides of having a benchmark for GFRF offerings.

Less engagement required

By giving someone a benchmark price they no longer have to think as much about what has gone into what they have received, they no longer have to think as much about the welfare of the person or people they have received from, basically if they want to they can just take things on face value and go back to thinking more about themselves and less about others.

I think overall this leads to less understanding, care, compassion and to use a cliched term – ‘connection’ between parties to the exchange.  It is easier for people to be wrapped up in their own world, selfish and self centred because they are not required to put as much thought into their interactions with others.

Of course just because there is a benchmark doesn’t mean people will think/act in this way, just as with set prices people don’t always think/act in this way.  But the thought required to decide for yourself what or how much you will give to someone else in return for what they provide you acts as a great prompt for people to think in a caring, compassionate way for the people around them.  I think this benefit is weakened by having a benchmark in place.

Intrinsic Value Identification

In my mind this is probably the biggest downside to having a benchmark.  People don’t have the same level of stimulus to identify and appreciate the intrinsic value of something. It becomes much easier for them to rely on an externally imposed indicator of value and assign their own internal value and appreciation accordingly.

I think many of us do not come close to fully appreciating so many of the most valuable things in our lives.  The people we love and have close relationships with.  Nature and the environment (a beautiful sunrise, clean air, fresh water, trees, etc).  Freedom to act, think, change and grow.

These things are FREE yet have infinite value.  Also while being FREE, they are not without cost.  Relations require time, people require communication and support, our environment requires that we take care not to destroy it, our freedoms have been defended repeatedly with the lives of soldiers fighting those who would control us.

We can’t really assign a price to these things.  Money may be involved in supporting and protecting  them, but it does not represent their value.  Somehow putting a price in dollar terms on these sorts of things cheapens them and causes us to miss their true value.  One of the big problems in our world today is people focusing so much on money and what they can get for it that they do not appreciate or make full use of what they already have.

Similarly having a benchmark is putting a dollar value on what is offered – and I think can take the mind away from understanding and appreciating the true value received, regardless of money being exchanged to support the provision of the offering.

Less Freedom

Basically putting a monetary value on what is offered makes the whole exchange less free.  People are inclined to base their value perception and exchange behaviour around the indicated value even if they don’t have to because it is a benchmark rather than a set price.  The fact that a number has been put on it causes them to begin to think in a certain way about it relative to the benchmark.

In essence the canvas for the exchange is no longer blank it has a mark on it that participates are likely to evaluate things in relationship to.  They no longer have full freedom to determine and define their own parameters.

This can lead to them feeling inadequate or ‘cheap’ if they pay less than the benchmark, and conversely it may restrict them from giving as much as they would like because they don’t want to overpay too much above what something has been deemed to be worth.

Much as with the other downsides discussed, having a benchmark doesn’t necessarily mean people will behave in this way.  They can still choose to do what they like, even with a benchmark they have great freedom in the exchange under GFRF. The situation just doesn’t encourage the same level of freedom. Essentially to obtain it they have to first ‘paint over’ the established benchmark on the ‘blank canvas’ so that it does not influence their own thinking and perceptions.  It is one more step to full freedom in their own mind which most people won’t take, most people will leave the benchmark there and evaluate in relationship to it.

Does the idea have merit?

In the end I think the idea of benchmarking alongside GFRF offerings is not ideal, but does have merit.  It makes the idea of choosing your own price for exchange more accessible to many people so that they will feel more comfortable doing it.  It could act as an entry point to GFRF for people, and once they get comfortable with GFRF with a benchmark they might be able to move on to a more ideal type of GFRF exchange without benchmarks – much like taking the training wheels off a bike.

I know that many people struggle with the practicality of GFRF exchange, even if they like the concept, and having an easier version for them could be a good way to start them experimenting in exchanging in this way.

Someone who attended one of my qigong workshops recently told me about her experience with a cafe in Auckland that used to operate ‘gift-economy’ (very similar to GFRF).  She said much as she liked the idea she couldn’t bring herself to go in and eat there because she didn’t know how to come up with a price.  Now that cafe no longer operates on ‘gift-economy’ it has set prices, probably because lots of other people were also uncomfortable exchanging in that way without reference point.  Benchmarking could have been some intermediate ground that might have worked and encouraged their ‘gift-economy’ principle to grow.

A friend of mine who is a lawyer operates in a way similar to this (yes a lawyer with a heart and conscience… they do exist).  His firm tells their clients what their full chargeout price for work is, but because they work with a lot of startups recognizes that they may not be able to pay the full price and allows them to come up with a price they can afford.  In this way they allow the client to use their services at a price they can afford, without the client perceiving those services as lower quality due to the lower cost.  The expectation is set that when the client can afford to pay more they will come up to the full pricing.  This helps the law firm earn the money that it needs across different clients and avoids clients jumping ship to another more expensive firm due to perceiving the lower cost services they have received as lower value.

It is a practical solution that also allows compassion, and one that I respect greatly.

Scale of GFRF approaches

Practicality is important, great ideas are only valuable if you can actually get them to work.  Along these lines I think there is a scale of ways that GFRF can be implemented according what is most ideal vs what is most practical/workable.  That scale probably looks something like this:

(Underground GFRF is another idea I’m toying with, I wrote about it in this post here)

I think that moving at least some way up the scale is preferable to staying stuck at conventional pricing.

Implementing a Benchmark

There are several ways you could go about setting benchmarks if you chose to.

  1. The pie in the sky method.  This is where you set a ridiculously high price on what you are offering, thus increasing the receiver’s expectation of what they should pay for it in the hopes that they will feel good about paying a reasonable price and that they have actually got far more value than this.  This has been used extensively in high pressure sales environments, particularly infomercials and internet infoproducts.  I guess they use these strategies because they have found that they work, but I feel like they are intellectually dishonest (why exactly are they selling you something of ‘over $5000 value‘ for the ‘low today only price of $27‘ again?).
  2. The competitive market approach.  This would involve comparing the prices that others in the market offer similar goods or services for and pricing according to the relative quality of what you offer.
  3. The cost plus approach.  This would involve adding up the total cost of providing what you do and then adding a margin so that you can make some kind of profit.
  4. The end result approach.  This would be where you decide how much you would like to earn and how many goods/how much service you are comfortably able to offer and divide the end sum by this to come up with unit pricing.
These are a few methods you could use to come up with a benchmark to use.  Each has  things in its favor and against it.  I think I would be inclined to use a mix of methods 2. 3. and 4. to set a realistic benchmark and have faith that what is received comes out somewhere in that ballpark – with some paying more and others paying less, rather than setting an unrealistic benchmark to allow for people to consistently pay less than the benchmark.

The Decision…

So back to the question of whether to benchmark or not to benchmark.

I can see it as possibly being useful.  I know that in the past I have tended to set my prices too low, I think I have tried to price for the lowest common denominator to make what I offer as affordable as possible for everyone.  But this has meant that I have not always been able to offer the level of service I would like too due to having insufficient resources.  It has also sometimes led to a lower perception of value – which can be very frustrating, knowing that often you are actually providing something of better quality than someone else charging several times your price and having people perceive the value based on the price rather than what is actually received.

Benchmarking could address some of these issues by giving people a pricing indicator in line with the quality offered while allowing those who can’t afford that to still pay what they can afford to receive the service.  I prefer the purity of straight GFRF though.  I think there are additional benefits to this that you don’t get with a benchmark.

I don’t know at this point if I will use benchmarking with my GFRF, but it is another useful  compromise approach that I could use if needed as I continue to experiment with GFRF.


My first GFRF product offering

My first experiment with offering a physical product GFRF is now live.  I haven’t offered physical products GFRF previously due to the fixed cost of the products.  If a lot of people bought the products at or below what it cost me to supply them… well I would quickly run into financial trouble.  Its a bridge I wanted to cross at some point though, so today I have taken that step.

The product is an ‘Acupuncture Massage Ring’ and has been really popular in the past when I have sold them for $8.95 each.  It will be really interesting to see how people respond to paying what the want for them.  I figure now is a good time to get the product online as Christmas is coming and people will be looking for gifts soon.

I am not entirely sure how I will promote the offer, probably just on facebook and via my websites, but it is now up on a new page of the GFRF website – the ‘Shop’.  If this is successful I will look to adding additional products in the future.  Also if anyone else has products they would like to offer GFRF, maybe I will be able to include them on the Shop page as well, or at least link to your own website with the offer.  The offer must be truly GFRF though with no strings attached, not something that is just an intro to try and get someone to buy something else at a fixed price.

Anyway, at some point in the future I will report back on how this experiment with GFRF physical goods goes.

Give Freely Receive Freely Goes Underground!

Ok, so this is my next step in experimenting with Give Freely Receive Freely.  I am planning on offering more of my services on a GFRF basis, but only to those who ask for it.  For other customers/clients/students there will be set prices.

What had led me to try this?

For most people GFRF is a very unusual idea, so much so that they find it very confronting to have to deal with.  This can be offputting and cause them to be uncomfortable with the interaction and shy away from using a product or service.  I believe that there is real value in the things that I offer and I don’t want people to miss out on those benefits because they are uncomfortable with the payment method.  Also my aim is not to be confrontational but to share an idea and way of exchanging with people that I think has potential to be hugely beneficial both to the individuals involved and society as a whole, but at the moment some people get it and others just don’t.

Also, I recently had a telephone conversation with Ian from Northriver (the horse and humanship training centre listed in the directory) and one of the things we discussed was that one part of their payment policy is that the client must make the payment face to face.  I think this increases the connection between giver and receiver and helps to make sure that the client has some level of internal reflection on the value of what they have received so that they are comfortable with the payment they give in return for it.  I think this is a powerful idea with many benefits, but not one that I feel I am able to implement with all of my services at the moment.  In particular this would be difficult with my junior Kung Fu classes as I do not have that level of engagement with many of the parents (many of them I do not see, or they drop and run).  I would like to increase the level of engagement with these parents but don’t think I can push it on them, its one of the common problems of modern life – excessive busyness resulting in disengagement from community.  I think that GFRF can help to solve these problems, but people need to come to it in their own time – I’m not going to force it on them.

So how will people find out that I am offering things on a Give Freely Receive Freely basis?

Well, I’m going underground with it, but it will be underground with big gaping cavernous entrances and signs with flashing lights pointing the way in.  I think that GFRF has great potential to create better interactions between individuals and a better society and world for all of us to live in, so of course I am going to continue to tell people about it.  I will continue to write on this blog and share the posts with people.  I figure the people that ‘get it’ will find the idea and the posts interesting and will look around the site and find all of what is on offer.  Those that don’t ‘get it’ will just find the idea too strange and probably won’t look around the site or read many of the posts.

It really won’t be hard to find what I am offering GFRF, it will be listed on the directory along with the services of others that I find are offering things in this or a similar way.  Those that are interested will find it.

In addition to this I will continue to offer some of my services only on a GFRF basis, these services will act as entrance points to Give Freely Receive Freely and will introduce the idea to people and start them getting used to it.

And finally, if I come across someone who I think could particularly benefit from my GFRF offerings and somehow has not found out about it through other means, I’ll tell them about it and point them to this website.  I actually did this the other day with a parent who said they were having difficulty coming up with the fees for their child’s Kung Fu classes – so I guess technically I have already started offering Kung Fu on a GFRF basis.

What am I offering GFRF?

I will continue to offer the following services openly GFRF:

  • Clinical work (using Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine)
  • Weekend Workshops (Qigong and Self Defence Workshops)

I will offer the following on an underground GFRF basis: (people will have to ask for it)

  • Kung Fu classes
  • Term based courses (Qigong, Self Defence – possibly some more offerings soon)

The following will still have set prices due to the fixed incremental costs involved in supplying them: (although I do have ideas about trying to offer some of these on a GFRF  basis too, so stay tuned on that).

  • All physical products (health products, books, t-shirts, uniforms, massage equipment etc.)
  • Gradings and Examinations

What does the future hold for GFRF?

Well I will continue to experiment with ways of offering things on a Give Freely Receive Freely basis.  I think there is such value in GFRF to create better lives and a better world  for all of us, but I realize that it can take a lot of work to effectively link theory and practice.  I want to make this work on a practical level.  I will continue to share my experiences along the way as I find what works and what doesn’t work for me.

I will also continue to find and list details in the directory of other people doing things on a GFRF basis or similar.  I will also be interviewing or encouraging these people to contribute their experiences with GFRF to this blog so that we can all learn from and be inspired by each other – look forward to a post about my conversation with Ian from Northriver soon.

I may start again to post some items about my thoughts on politics, history and philosophy and how they apply to GFRF.  I pulled back from this for awhile because it all felt a bit overwhelming to lay out all the theory while being so new and inexperienced to the practice of GFRF.  I think its really important to get theory and practice in balance otherwise you just end up fantasizing… or even worse ranting.  So it will probably be only the occasional post on philosophy at this point as I think my focus needs to be more on practice right now, but I think there may be some value in beginning to write these again.

I am excited to be able to offer Kung Fu on a GFRF basis.  Kung Fu was a real sticking point for me in figuring out how I could offer it GFRF due to the dynamics of some of the interactions involved and I think taking it ‘underground’ may be a good way for me to do this.  I hope that it is successful and if there is enough of an underground movement I may be able to bring it out into the open later on.  As with all aspects of GFRF, it is an experiment at the moment.  I will continue to review tweak and change if necessary to find what works.


GFRF Kung Fu – on hold for now

Well the next term of classes for my junior kung fu classes has begun now and after a LOT of thinking I have decided against trialing one of the classes as a give freely receive freely class.

I just don’t feel confident that it would work at this point.  Also I guess I am feeling a bit stretched by how much I am already doing on a GFRF basis.  I am now doing all my clinical work, my qigong classes and workshops and also creating online training courses on a give freely receive freely basis.  While for the most part things have been going ok in these areas, they haven’t been going stunningly well either, in fact some areas have been quite disappointing.  In particular the response to my first GFRF online training course has been much lower than I expected… and I wasn’t really expecting much.

My ideal is to be able to do everything on a give freely receive freely basis… but I recognize that is a high ideal, and for me it is a lot of uncharted territory to get there.  My push to try GFRF with one of my Kung Fu classes was part of my desire to reach my ideal, but it just doesn’t feel right just yet.  I think I am better off being content taking a little step back and ‘consolidating’ my give freely receive freely efforts in other areas.  I think that if I can achieve more success with GFRF in these areas I will then feel more confident in moving forwards and expanding my GFRF into the remaining areas of my work.

Better to go a bit slower and surer than to rush and mess things up and potentially not be able to continue with GFRF in any area.

I still want to make my Kung Fu GFRF, but its going to have to wait awhile for now.