As a founder, partner, contributor, author, and certifiable badass, Darrah Brustein has her hands in a little bit of everything. After starting Equitable Payments with her brother, Darrah went on to found Network Under 40, regularly contribute to Forbes, and to top it all off, write a series of children’s books called Finance Whiz Kids. The driving force for Darrah has always been connecting people across sectors with benevolence strapping her in for the ride.
So, it was no surprise to us when we heard about her latest endeavor, Give It Forward. What started as personal practice in giving, has evolved into a 30 day challenge with nearly . It’s as straight to the point as you’re thinking. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or a complete stranger, all you simply do is ask ‘how can I help you?’
Why did you decide to launch Give It Forward?
I started Give It Forward because it’s a personal practice I have always done independently. People are very different when it comes to the way they navigate and manage relationships. I’ve always admired and respected those who were givers without an expectation of gain in return. So that’s always been the way I’ve gone about living in the world.
Many years ago, I read a book that is a big foundation for what I quote on the website and on the Give It Forward Facebook page. It’s by Adam Grant called Give and Take. He’s a Wharton professor who did studies on what he calls “givers,” “matchers,” and “takers.” He found evidence in his studies that givers are the ones who are happiest and most successful, as well as those who lose in life. On one end, they are martyrs and give too much with no boundaries. On the other, they give with so much joy and genuinely want to help people which build strong relationships. That ultimately comes back to them in some way but rarely is it 1:1 and never is that the expectation.
That was something that really solidified my anecdotal belief in giving. There were many times in the past where I started to do this 30 day giving challenge on my own. I felt that it would be a really intentional way to go about reconnecting with people I have relationships with and asking, ‘how can I help you’ with no strings attached.
The reason it became more public recently is because I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. I’ve got several successful endeavors in my career but I felt like there was something new on the horizon. I was having a hard time diagnosing what that was and felt really stuck. I realized that every time in the past when I’ve taken the spotlight off of myself and put it back on other people through giving, how energized and eye opening it’s been. It starts to make you think about other people instead of yourself in such a positive way. Ultimately nothing but good comes out of it – good for them and for me.
This time I made the decision to share it publically hoping it would benefit other people independently. But also with the idea that there is this alchemy that if one person is helping one person and they give it forward too, the web effect is exponential.
Can you tell us about the impact that all this giving could create?
One day I quoted a statistic that I had my twin brother calculate for me. At the beginning, I think we had 150 people and within a few days, we got closer to 300. In those first few days, I said to my brother, “How many days would it take for this 150 people to give and help one million people if each of those people then gave it forward and helped someone else?” He responded, “13.” I realized, holy shit, if just a small group of people went into the world with that kind of intention that the compact effect would only take 13 days to reach one million people. It’s unbelievable.
With the Facebook group you’ve created, you currently have nearly 300 members and it’s growing. What is your vision for where you want this to be – especially considering in 13 days you could help one million people!
I’d love to see a world where there are a million people actively giving it forward. Obviously, there are a lot of people who passively do this. They go into the world helping people but what has been so profound – and you can see through some of the anecdotes that people share – is how it’s shifted their perspective to one of goodness. They now see people and humanity as generally good, especially in a time that feels pretty dark and bleak for a lot of people. When they switch their mindset to how they can help people and recognize that most people also want to be helpful, it really changes the way they look at the world. For me, that’s the goal. How do I continue to get the word out through the people who are doing this to get them committed whether it’s time, resources, or talent? Whether they give to someone anonymously or not anonymously every day, that compounds outward incredibly fast.
Whether it’s your own personal anecdote or an anecdote from someone you’ve seen, has there been a time recently within this challenge that people have had this “ah ha” moment when helping someone.
It’s hard to narrow it down because there are so many but one that comes to mind is a discussion I had with Ronny Turiaf who was an NBA All-Star and a friend. He and I were having a discussion and I asked if I could record it. We started recording and I said, ‘Tell me what this experience has been like for you?” He talking about how eye-opening it was because he is someone who goes out into the world and is a giver and cares. When he made an offer to give, he did it in a really big way. He offered it to everyone on his Instagram, Facebook, and various networks to let people tell him how he could help in some way. He said one of the people mentioned they had a child who was at a hospital from challenges upon birth. He said it would mean the most to him if Ronny would go to the hospital and say thank you to the doctors who saved his child’s life.
Ronny talked about how easy that would be for him. The fact that it would mean so much to that family and doctor to show up and say thank you, made him realize how small these things may seem but how they can make a really big impact on someone’s life. You just have to ask.
For anyone who feels skeptical about this giving challenge or unsure about their time or how to help people, what would your response be?
Frankly, there are days in this challenge where I feel like I don’t have any energy or time. Or a day like today where I’m hopping on an international flight and I’m thinking, ‘When am I going to fit in the time?’ but that’s the irony of it, it really is easy.
Some people have spun it into an anonymous giving challenge where they’ll pay for someone’s coffee or in other cases make a phone call to someone and ask how they can help them. When you go into the world looking for the opportunities and finding spaces to insert yourself in a way that’s not forceful, you can always find a way. Time is always the biggest hesitation for people. You do have time. If you think you don’t, it is at that moment, more than ever, when you should be giving back.
Part of the lesson you learn as the giver is that there will come the time when someone asks you how they can help. You need to know how people can help you and to accept that gift. Oftentimes givers are not willing to receive but we live in a world where we need to help one another. We are social beings. If we think about the early days of humanity we lived in communities and helped each other. It is part of our hardwiring. Not only is part of the idea giving, it’s knowing how to receive gracefully and being open to accepting. It takes some amount of knowing oneself, of knowing what you need, and being vulnerable enough to ask.
Interested in joining Give It Forward? to participate in the upcoming giving challenge.
Photos are property of Darrah Brustein.