Although she goes about it without much publicity, my mom—in partnership with my dad when he was alive—has now given away more than a hundred million dollars to improve the quality of life in communities where our family businesses are located.
Believe it or not, it’s harder to give money away that gets used well than it is to earn that money in the first place.
In other words, being an effective philanthropist isn’t easy.
To encourage her grandkids to follow in her philanthropic footsteps, my mom allows each of them to direct a few thousand dollars each year to the charity of their choice.
The grandkids have to research a cause they want to support, find and visit a charity working to support that cause, then deliver a presentation to the Miller family foundation board to explain why they want to support that charity.
My daughter Abbie loves animals and once raised a tarantula. She owns a bearded dragon and a chameleon, and she’s completed a marine biology research program in British Columbia and a veterinary internship in Costa Rica.
A few years ago, she wanted to support Labs for Liberty, a charity that trains and provides service dogs for military veterans to help them with PTSD and physical assistance.
But when it came time to make the presentation to the foundation board, Abbie was reluctant.
Now, I have a personal rule against coaching people who don’t ask for it, but I’m a parent as well as a coach, and this rule doesn’t apply to my kids.
I know that emotion is what motivates us or keeps us stuck. But what I didn’t know for most of my life is how to generate or shift emotions upon demand.
It’s something Tony Robbins taught me, and it’s one of the most valuable things I’ve ever learned.
Tony teaches that every emotion is created by just three inputs:
And, of course, we’re always doing something with our bodies, and—at least as long as we’re conscious—we’re always focusing on something and using some language pattern.
So, to help Abbie get past whatever was keeping her from presenting to the foundation board, like a technician diagnosing a stalling engine, I talked through each of the three inputs of emotion with her.
Physiology is the fastest way to shift our emotion, so I started there.
I waited to talk with her until morning, when she was most likely to be rested. I made sure she had eaten. I invited her to go for a walk with me.
Once we were outside and moving, I asked if she still wanted to support Labs for Liberty. She did, but she still didn’t want to present to the board.
When I asked why, she said she was concerned she might not do a good job, and that the board might decline her request or even laugh at her.
I invited her to shift her focus by thinking about a best-case scenario: who might benefit—and how—if she did make the presentation and it went well.
The vets would get the emotional and physical assistance to make their lives better.
The dogs would get placed in loving homes where they would be happy.
Her cousins who hadn’t decided which charity to support might benefit by deciding to support Labs for Liberty.
Grandma might benefit from seeing one of her granddaughters take advantage of an opportunity she had provided.
And Abbie would benefit by gaining experience as a philanthropist.
Abbie was feeling better now.
I asked her what she was saying to herself about presenting. It turned out she was telling herself, “I might screw up” and “they’ll probably laugh at me.”
She decided to replace those statements with “I can do this.”
Often, all that’s required to take the action that will lead to the results we want is a few subtle shifts in how we manage our bodies, our attention and our words.
Abbie ended up making the presentation. The board approved it. Labs for Liberty continues its work to support veterans in need.
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