What happens when we give to much?

Sometimes people who are naturally giving by nature, or people who are opening themselves up to being giving, fall into situations where they give to much.  What do I mean by giving to much?  They give to the extent that they become tired, drained and worn out, to the extent that their own wellbeing suffers and their ability to continue to give is reduced.  Giving starts to feel like a chore or a burden, maybe an obligation or even resented, instead of the joy that it can ideally be.

I have seen this, and experienced this myself many times in different situations.  One such situation is serving in non-profit organizations – I’m going to save discussing that one for another blog post though, as there are some other issues to do with that dynamic that I would like to bring out.  Another more recent situation has been in hosting couchsurfers.


If you haven’t heard of couchsurfing I suggest you check it out – there is a website at www.couchsurfing.org  Basically it is a network for travellers where people can meet locals and request to stay with them short term during their travels.  There is no cost, and requiring payment is explicitly prohibited.  I think the underlying spirit of couchsurfing fits really well with the principles of Give Freely Receive Freely.

I have been hosting couchsurfers for the last year or so.  At some times during the year I get TONS of requests, and there have been times when I have taken the attitude that if I have space to fit someone in I would take them.  That has been fun at times, but then there have also been times when I have taken people in, and I have had too many people in a row, and some of them haven’t been entirely considerate as guests and it has taken up too much of my time and started to get in the way of my day to day activities and things that I need to get done.  These times have left me feeling a bit jaded with couchsurfing, and it has even been a bit stressful at times.  So I stopped hosting people.

End of the story?

The story could end there.  That could be the end of my couchsurfing story.  “I tried hosting people for awhile, then I had some bad experiences and it became a bit stressful so I stopped”.  Too often that can be what happens when we give too much.  We get drained and have bad experiences, so we get put off and think maybe its not such a good idea after all and stop doing it.  Fortunately with couchsurfing I didn’t take this approach.  Instead of stopping completely, I just stopped hosting for awhile.  I took a break so I could have time to myself and then came back to it refreshed and better able to manage my hosting so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and wear me down too much.  I now say ‘no’ to far more requests than I previously did and am much more careful to not host people at times when it may cause problems with my other activities, and also to just allow myself more down time when I need it.

I’m glad that I did this and didn’t just give up on couchsurfing, because I have met some really cool people since then through doing this.  And from time to time in the future I will continue to take breaks from hosting when I need it so that I can come back to it fresh each time and continue to enjoy the experience.

A bit like Italian parsley?

This reminds me a bit of an Italian parsley plant we had in my mothers garden.  Often parsley plants are quite small, and after picking from them a few times, there isn’t much of the plant left, but this plant was amazing.  It was allowed to grow until it was quite large and then when we picked from it, a few days later it seemed that it had regrown to the same size again.  We picked parsley from that plant again and again for several years.  In fact if we didn’t pick from the plant the leaves would start to get too long and the quality would deteriorate, so picking from the plant actually made it healthier.  There were times when we picked maybe a bit too much from the plant and then it would be left a bit bare and take awhile to regrow, but if we took care of it and gave it the time it needed without taking mare from it, regrow it did back to its former health and lushness.

I think each of us is a bit like the Italian parsley plant.  Giving makes us healthier and more lush, but we sometimes need to make sure that we manage the level of our giving so that it doesn’t make us weak.  If we do find that we have been giving too much, sometimes we need to take a break and take care of ourselves to let ourselves recuperate so that we can get back to giving joyfully.  When we do this we help not only ourselves, but also those we give to, as we are better able to give when we are healthy, strong and happy ourselves.

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 🙂

A couple of interesting recent experiences

I’ve had a couple of interesting experiences recently related to GFRF.

First, in the clinic last week I had an appointment with a client who was new to the clinic but had previously come to some of my qigong classes.  At the end of the session she said “How much do I owe you, I know you’re going to say its by donation – but how much should I give you”.  Obviously a little uncomfortable about it.  I told her that she was paying me, she could just choose how much to pay.

This simple explanation seemed to make her much more comfortable and she quickly decided how much she wanted to pay for the session.

Second, I went and watched some acrobats performing on a yacht in the viaduct in Auckland.  It was billed as a free performance or by donation.  Quite a few people turned up to watch and it was a pretty good show.  At the end of the show the female performer talked to the crowd and explained how long they have been doing what they are doing and that the way they are paid is by the money that people give, she then tried to describe that maybe people should think about how much they would pay for a ticket to a show and give that.  It was a little bit awkward.

I don’t know what proportion of people gave money to the performers afterwards, or how much.  I suspect quite a few just left without giving anything, but at least a fair few did donate (including myself of course).

Both of these recent experiences made me think about the challenge of helping people to understand GFRF.  I think people often have an idea around donation that something should be very cheap.  This makes them uncomfortable if they feel that something is of significant value (such as treatment in a clinic).  Also if something is free or by donation, often people seem to assume that perhaps someone else or an organization is paying for it – so their contribution does not matter/there is no real expectation that they should contribute for the benefit that they receive.  This was evidenced by the performers need to explain that the donations are how they are paid.

I think this is resolved by people understanding that what they give is actually payment for what they receive, they just get to choose how much that is according to the value they perceive, what they can afford and so on.  This seems to take quite a lot of explaining for a lot of people – and even then it doesn’t seem to fully sink in for a lot of them.  I think this is simply because it is so different from what they are used to experiencing in their other interactions with people around them.

On the bright side though, I continue to see more and more examples of people doing things in this way.  As this continues, more and more people will be exposed to it, and become comfortable with it.  They will not need long explanations and will understand it more readily.  This will make it easier and easier for people to operate Give Freely Receive Freely.

Also on the bright side – the acrobats I mentioned have been travelling the world doing their shows like this for several years.  So even now while it takes a lot of explanation for people to understand, it is inspiring to see people managing to operate in this way anyway.

What is Charity Really?

First Impressions of Charity

What comes to mind when you think of ‘Charity’?  I think for a lot of us it is things like people in the street collecting money to feed starving orphans in a far of land, or maybe someone calling you on the phone asking you to donate money to help re-home abandoned animals.  Closer to home you may think of things like raising money for your local sports club to help fund building of new facilities, or equipment for youth teams.  Closer still you might think of acts of service like cooking a meal for sick neighbour.

A lot of wonderful things are done in the name of ‘Charity’, but I know for many of us ‘Charity’ brings up feelings that are not entirely positive.  Negative connotations have somehow also become attached to this inherently good thing.

Why is ‘Charity’ Sometimes a Dirty Word?

I think there are a number of reasons why Charity sometimes gets a bad reputation in our modern society.  They come from what I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of what charity really is.  I would like to look at some of these distortions before discussing a deeper understanding of the meaning of Charity.

Big Business

One of the things that sometimes sours peoples attitude to Charity is the practices of organizations and people that acquire funding on their behalf.  They can be very persistent and irritating to the point where people feel they are giving not so much out of the goodness of their hearts but because they have been hounded and they just want to get rid of the person.

Then there is the case of the new breed of collectors who will approach people to donate, but then will not accept their offered cash donation because what they are after is a contract for a donation by monthly direct debit.  These are usually PROFESSIONAL collectors and they and the organization they work for are paid on commision and these commissions can be high – up to 100% of your entire first years worth of donations.  That money you thought was going to your preferred cause may actually be going directly into the pocket of the collector and helping to fund even more pesky collectors.  (See this article in the New Zealand Herald about Charity fundraising)

If some of your donated money does manage to get through to your supported organization, then more of that money is used for ongoing marketing and to pay administrative and staffing costs – which can be high, before finally some of it may get to the purpose you wanted to contribute too.

The reality is that Charity has become big business, and like other big businesses they will try to squeeze every dollar they can out of their audience – even if it sometimes means annoying and hounding them.  And also like any business, many people enter the sector with an eye to how much they can get for themselves personally while working there rather than what they can contribute.

This doesn’t mean that all large charitable organizations and their employees operate like this.  I am sure that there are many who do great work in a highly ethical way, but the fact that some do can leave people feeling taken advantage of and suspicious about giving to any cause.  There are ways around this which we will get to later on in this post.

Dependency And Weakness

Another aspect of the common conception of Charity that sometimes gives it a bad name is the idea that Charity is a hand out.  Something for nothing.  A lot of people instinctively dislike this idea, and I think for good reason.  Sadly when people regularly get something for nothing they often become dependent on these hand outs and rather than helping these people to lead better lives it can make them weak and unable to take care of themselves.

This causes people to not want to give to charities because they don’t want to be contributing to a handout mentality which creates dependency and weakness in the recipients.  It also makes people not want to receive from charity as this would indicate weakness on their part.  Almost no-one wants to be considered a ‘charity case’ as the implication of weakness damages peoples sense of self esteem and sense of worth.

What is Charity Really?

So we can see a few issues with Charity as it is often thought of and practiced in our society today.  There is bad mixed with good, and this can cause people to have understandably mixed feelings and attitudes towards it.  Do we have to accept the bad with the good though? Or can we find another understanding of Charity which is only good, that there is no need to have mixed feelings about, something that we would like to do all the time without hesitation because there is no downside?

Pure Love

Out of interest I looked up a dictionary definition of Charity for reference.  Here is the definition I found at www.thefreedictionary.com


char·i·ty  (chr-t)

n. pl. char·i·ties

1. Provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving.
2. Something given to help the needy; alms.
3. An institution, organization, or fund established to help the needy.
4. Benevolence or generosity toward others or toward humanity.
5. Indulgence or forbearance in judging others. See Synonyms at mercy.
6. often Charity Christianity The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one’s neighbors as objects of God’s love.

[Middle English charite, from Old French, Christian love, from Latin critsaffection, from crusdear; see k- in Indo-European roots.]


Looking at this definition we can see that the first three items refer pretty much to what we have been discussing in this post so far, but as we go further down the list I think we start to get closer to a true understanding of what Charity really is.

Charity at its essence is PURE LOVE, the giving and institutions referred to in the first three items of the definition and the earlier part of this blog post are simply imperfect human expressions of this love.  By digging deeper to find the true meaning of Charity we can find better ways of expressing it.

We All Need Charity

As we come closer to understanding the deeper meaning of Charity, it quickly becomes apparent that Charity actually affects all areas of our lives and there is no shame whatsoever in receiving it.  All of us can benefit from benevolence and generosity (item four in the definition) and forbearance in judgement (item five) from time to time.  At our core, all of us need to love and be loved.

Charity is not just something for the poor but an inner attitude that is expressed in all of our interactions with the people and the world around us.

Integrating Charity Into Our Lives

So how do we best express this PURE LOVE in our interactions with others?  Well, people are going to have different ways of doing this and the giving and institutions mentioned earlier can sometimes be a good way.  But there are lots of other ways to do this as well that I think can often hit their mark a bit more accurately.  I found this interesting post on Freakonomics that shares one guys ideas of how to effectively express charity in your local community (read it here).  Basically there are many opportunities around us in our local communities where we can express charity effectively.

Give Freely Receive Freely and Charity

For myself, I think it is a shame to reserve our expressions of Charity to special instances of giving.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could incorporate this pure love into every interaction we engage in, including our day to day business?

I think ‘Give Freely Receive Freely’ has potential to do this quite well.  It allows us to provide what we do directly to those people who want or need it.  When we do this we are making no judgement as to whether someone is rich or poor or a ‘charity case’, because we expect them to give in return what they can or are willing to for what we have provided.  We respect their contribution whether great or small, and in so doing encourage them to respect themselves and to continue to make the effort to contribute what they can in return for what they receive and in so doing contribute to the greater good of society.

This giving is very efficient as we can provide what we do best (you do work at what you do best don’t you?) to those most in need (rich or poor) without having to deal with any additional costly marketing and administrative structures to facilitate the giving.  It is just part of our day to day activity and business.

As we give in this way it also makes us very aware of our own need to receive, because if we do not we receive we are unable to take care of our own needs let alone continue to give to others.  It breaks down our barriers to receiving graciously.  In short it encourages us to be more liberal in both our giving and receiving of love.

My experiment with GFRF has been interesting so far.  I can’t say it has been a resounding success, but it hasn’t been a failure yet either.  It has helped me to see the potential of interacting in this way and it has helped me to learn more about myself and how I view others and the world.  My experience so far encourages me to keep trying.  I am just new at this and to be perfectly honest I am probably not very good at giving freely yet, I am also probably not very good at receiving freely either.  The receiving really is a challenge, I find that it takes a lot of trust to give not knowing what you will receive in return. It also takes a lot of humility to receive what is given.

I think that little by little GFRF is helping me to change for the better.  It encourages me to give more, receive more, love more and trust more.  As I keep experimenting I expect that I will learn a lot more both about myself and about how to give and receive freely and effectively.

I hope that you will continue to follow along on this journey.





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.


Mates Rates – the fairest deal in the world

Is everyone familiar with the term ‘mates rates’?  Its the idea that you give your friends a special deal on whatever you are selling/service you are providing because they are your mate (colloquial for friend).

I think that on the surface there is a lot of positive feeling behind this concept, the idea that you will give someone a really good deal because of your friendship – because you always want to help out your friends right?  and thats a good thing.

I’d like to take a little bit of a deeper look at this idea though and how it fits in with the Give Freely Receive Freely Concept.

Who is my friend?

How do we decide who our friends are, or who to be friendly to?  Personally I prefer to be friends and friendly with everyone.  If I truly am friends with everyone, how then do I choose who to give a ‘mates rates’ deal to?  Shouldn’t I be giving mates rates, or a great deal to everyone?

This reminds me of something that happened to me awhile ago.  I went to a friends shop (where I had visited him a number of times before), I chatted for a bit and then told him I had come to check out one of his products I was interested in buying.  There was an instant subtle change to our interaction.  It was obvious to me that in that moment in his eyes I went from being a friend to being a customer and he changed into a salesman.  He was trying to make a sale and get money from me.  I did end up buying something from him, but the whole thing made me feel a bit uncomfortable and our relationship has always seemed a bit different since then.

I don’t hold it against him, he was just trying to run his business the best way he knew how and this included him introducing an element of distance and coldness between him and a customer so that he can make the money he needs.  But isn’t there a better way, a way that would allow him to interact with friends and customers in the same warm way? (and have his friends as customers and customers as friends).

Business Owners Are Always Wealthy

I think part of the problem is entrenched in the idea that the business owner is always in a position to discount, and a true friend should get a deal that means the business owner is making no or very little money from them.

Anyone who has owned a business will tell you that they are not always able to discount.  There are many costs in running a business that are not obvious to an outsider or someone who has not run a similar business.  You can only run a business at break even or a loss for so long before you are no longer able to operate.  And if you were to give everyone such a deep discount that you don’t make money off them how would you pay your expenses?  how would you be able to feed yourself and your family?

I think this is one reason why business people feel the need to create distance between themselves and customers.  They feel uncomfortable profiting from friends, so they create a distinction between friends and customers so that they can profit and have the money they need to run their business and live.  In fact I think this affects all of us to some extent in our dealings with money, even with friends and family (theres even research to back this up, I mentioned it in a previous blog post here).

The Less Expressed Side of Mates Rates

I think the solution comes in the other less expressed side of the mates rates equations. I had never heard this other side of the equation until a few years ago.  It was after I had written and published my first book (you can see it here 🙂 ).  A friend said that he would like to buy a copy, and during that conversation he told me that “you don’t support a brother by asking for a discount, you support a brother by paying full price”.  He did buy a copy of my book, and he did pay full price – which I appreciated, but I think I appreciated even more this new idea he gave me in that conversation.  The idea that it is not always about getting a cheaper price because you are a friend, but sometimes the effect of the friendship flows the other way in paying full price because the buyer wants to support a friend.

Give Freely Receive Freely

I think that GFRF elegantly combines both sides of the ‘mates rates’ equation.  If a friend does not have a lot of money or other resources, the business owner gives it to them at a rate they can afford (decided by them).  On the other hand if the friend has plenty of money or other resources they can pay the business owner what would be “full price” or even more if they choose to support them in their efforts.  Price ceases to be a barrier and there is no need to create emotional distance between you and your customers.  Everyone becomes your ‘mate’, as you are treating each other the way a true friend would.

I know that for me, the relationship I have with customers and clients that pay on a GFRF basis feels different than the relationship I have with customers and clients that pay on a fixed price basis.  It is a closer and friendlier relationship.  I like this way of dealing with people better.  As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I would like to have all my business dealings with people on this basis, I’m just figuring out how to do it as the idea is unusual for most people.  I am trying to figure out how to do it in step by step way so people can get used to it and so that my business will not collapse due to unfamiliarity or other reasons – as that wouldn’t help anyone.

Already I offer quite a lot of what I do on this basis, but I have quite a way to go before offering everything this way.  Its been an interesting process so far.  I have learned a lot, and I know that there is still a huge amount to learn yet.  I hope you’ll continue to follow this blog as I write about my experiences along the way.


On a side note related to this, I recently went to a vegetarian food outlet (the term restaurant would probably be a bit of a stretch in this case) and really enjoyed the food, so much so that I am already planning on going back there.  Well this morning in my email was a deal for meals at this place at less than half price.

My first instinct was to buy several of these deals to use with my friends.  But as I thought about it more, I didn’t really feel good about that.  I know how these deal sites work – the food outlet would end up receiving even less than the already extremely cheap deal.  Even at half price it would still be too cheap, they would probably be giving me my meal at a loss to them.

I was already planning on going back there… and after thinking about it, I would rather pay full price.  I don’t know them personally as a ‘friend’ but I like what they are doing and would rather support that by paying a fair amount for my meal.  I would like even more to be able to pay on a Give Freely Receive Freely basis… but theres not that many of us operating this way yet.  I’m not sure how much I would pay when left to figure out the value for myself, but I would try to make sure it was fair and reflected my appreciation of what they are doing.


Violin experiment

I saw this on facebook.  I don’t know if it is true, but I have no reason to believe it is not true.  In fact this type of situation is fairly common in my experience.  I’ll leave some comments below of how this relates to ‘Give Freely Receive Freely’.


“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace,

and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”


In our busy money driven world I think that most of us are missing all sorts of things everyday.  In fact I think many of us are completely missing ALL of the most important things in our lives.  Our sense of value and in a related way our sense of self is so skewed by the realities of our current economic system – we often end up valuing what we are ‘told’ we should value rather than what is truly worthwhile.

‘Give Freely Receive Freely’ addresses this in two ways.  For the person receiving a good or service, they are left to value what they are receiving for themself without being ‘told’ what it is worth.  This means that they have to engage in thought about value and what is valuable to them.  Encountering this in even a few interactions/transactions can lead to that person thinking about value at a deeper level in all of their interactions.

For the person giving the good or service, offering things in this way helps you to focus on the true value of what you offer rather than just a monetary value.  This can help you to tap into deeper sense of inspiration and meaning in your work.

GFRF is not without its challenges as a way of exchange, but I think it has a lot to offer in the lives of both the giver and receiver.

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.

The next step – Kung Fu

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about my next step.  Ideally I would like to try to do all my work on a ‘Give Freely Receive Freely’ basis.  I have already started with my clinical work and also with my qigong classes, courses and workshops, and it has been going ok.  It hasn’t been a massive success, but it hasn’t been a miserable failure either – I believe the idea has potential and CAN work.  This leaves one major area of my work to try GFRF with and that is my Kung Fu teaching.

I have a number of reservations about trying GFRF with my kung fu teaching, one is that while a lot of people love the idea of GFRF there are others who just don’t seem to get it and they feel awkward about it.  My view is that GFRF is the fairest deal there can possibly be for both the provider and receiver, but I don’t want people to shy away from using it because of unfamiliarity or discomfort.  Being faced with making your own choice about price can be quite confronting when you have not spent any time thinking about it and my aim is not to confront, but how else can I introduce the idea?

Another concern I have is that while I have contact with the students attending my classes every week, I often do not have a lot of contact with the parents of students.  All too often I think paying for the classes can be easily forgotten about.  It is a problem I have now with set prices that I have to chase up some parents right till the end of the term to be paid.  This takes a lot of time and effort which quite frankly I don’t have to spare.  I actually wonder if by putting the responsibility on the parent to decide how much to pay, they might also be more prompt in paying and understand better that it is their responsibility to support what I am doing for their child rather than my responsibility to chase them for payment.  It comes down to the idea that under GFRF both parties to the transaction become free givers rather than takers from each other (see my earlier blog post here).  But then again… it may not work out that way in practice.

Another concern is that I think people often underestimate the true cost of providing things (in this example kung fu classes).  There are many overheads to cover: rent, power, equipment, wages, advertising and so on, even really simple things like GST make a big difference.  Also I think people tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to provide things like classes, looking just at the actual time the class takes when in fact there is a significant amount of time spent on administration, preparation, travel time and so on.  Owners of small businesses tend to be the exception as they have experience with all the things that need to be done to keep something running and what they cost, but for other people I think they often look at things from the perspective almost of the person providing the service receiving all the money.The reality is far from this.  The truth is that many of my classes are marginal with some even running at a loss, but I continue with them because I believe that learning kung fu has a lot of value for people by developing fitness, confidence and social skills (there are some really good studies that show that children allowed to play fight go on to be better socially adjusted than those who are not allowed to play fight).  I also believe that we have a great kung fu syllabus and organization that will grow over time if given the chance.  I can only do so much with the classes if they are not profitable though, and there is so much more that I would like to be able to offer in terms of competition, advanced training and performance, but I can’t until I have more financial resources to support them.

Similar to my concerns mentioned earlier, I wonder if GFRF may actually provide a solution to some of these problems as certainly it would allow any families who cannot afford my current prices to be able to attend at a price that they can afford, increasing class sizes.  Also the GFRF model would allow those who can afford more, to give more if they want to help support the ongoing running and further growth and development of the kung fu organization.

So there are significant pros and cons on both sides.  I guess one final factor is that I want to move to GFRF because I like how it changes my relationships with people.  I have noticed in my clinic work and qigong teaching that whether the client or student pays more, less or exactly the same as they did previously, there is a subtle change in how the interaction feels.  It might sound a little corny, but there seems to be more warmth, love and respect in the interaction from both sides; and that really is how I want to live my life.

I’m still nervous about it though… Due to the overheads and the time commitment involved in running classes it could easily go wrong and make it difficult for me to continue.  I wonder maybe if it is too soon for me to try this, but I also think if not now when would I start?  What I’m thinking of doing at the moment is trying it out at just one location where I have kids and teens classes and see how that goes… but I’m still not even sure about that.   I have a few weeks to think about it before the next term begins.