Friday, May 8, 2015

Cultivating Karma

In February 2014, I asked Brad Feld to help me with a project by accepting to be interviewed by me via email so I could write a story titled, “What it’s like to live in Boulder, Colorado.”
I thought, “Nice guy, but I’ll never hear back from him -- he's just too busy, and he won't give me the time of day.”
A few days later, I went for a walk and listened to a few chapters of one of Brad’s books on Audible.
At the point when I was most deeply considering what he was saying in the book, I got an email from him that said, “There it is”. He had answered the questionaire.
It felt a little surreal actually, and I told him so. He replied with one word:
I even looked up the word in the dictionary to see if I was missing something.
In a separate incident, a few months ago, upon returning home from an organic / holistic grocery store I frequent, I noticed that the cashier forgot to charge me for a $13 piece of steak (which is already a great price for a grass fed striploin beef, if you ask me).
So the next week I went back and paid for it. The manager commented that it was an unusual behavior for me to have done so, but then she paused and said:
“Ah, Karma”.
And that’s what it is.
I’ve been like this since I was a teenager, but I didn’t have a word for it before.
I couldn’t explain to someone why it was important to me to fulfill a certain agreement, or pay back what I knew I owed that the other party forgot to bill me for, or leaving a note if I scratched someone’s car when they weren’t around.
I often got laughed at by friends, family and others.
Now I can say, “It’s good Karma”.
It’s something most people can relate to and appreciate.
And I can think of at least two occasions when I didn’t do what I knew was the right thing, and it felt wrong.
If you want a concrete framework for applying this principle, read Brad’s post, titled “Give Before You Get”.
In it, there are some gems, such as:
“In order to give before you get, adopt a philosophy of helping others without an expectation of what you are going to get back. It’s not altruistic — you do expect to get things in return — but you don’t set up the relationship to be a transactional one.”
“My goal is to live as happy an existence on this planet as I can and, by giving before I get, I maximize my chance of this.”
Today, I have received a phone call from another mason who lives in Tennessee and who felt stuck on a project and didn’t know who to turn to for advice. After doing a Google search, he came across some of my writings on the subject and managed to find my phone number and left me a message asking for my time so I could advise him.
Years ago, I would not have answered it — too busy, nothing in it for me, waste of time, etc. — in other words, a typical busy person’s way of dealing with a big enough ask when there’s too much on one's plate already.
I thought I would help him even if there clearly was nothing in it for me, and so I called him back.
Factually, I was following the give-before-you-get approach.
It meant a lot to him.
And that means a lot to me.
And he's going to pay it forward to someone else.
And so I feel the happiest when I work on cultivating my Karma, and very often, things just go smoothly when I do.


  1. This is great Mario. I sometimes struggle with taking on too much, but in general I almost always feel good about giving first, and Brad's written a lot about how to do that well.

    Do you read much Khalil Gibran? I was reading a piece from the prophet the other day about giving, it's really a nice companion to what you talk about here...

  2. Ah, I figured you might be a fan of Gibran = )

    That's a good point re: balancing. I think the challenge is often to first understand someone, intuit where you might be able to help, and then offering it in the right way.