Her name is Nikki Bollerman and she teaches third grade at an inner-city Boston charter school. Bollerman’s students don’t come from houses stocked with books, so in 2014 she applied for a contest called the #WishForOthers campaign. She wanted to be able to buy a book for each of them to practice reading over the holiday break.
She won. The sponsor, Capital One, funded three books for each child and also awarded her one of the grand prizes: $150,000.
If you’re in your 20s like Bollerman—or recall being in your 20s—you remember how tight the budget can be in those years. I don’t know Bollerman’s personal situation, but I’m guessing she wasn’t rolling in cash. Still, she donated the winnings to the school.
“To me,” she later told reporters, “there was no other real option. I mean, I wished for it for the kids. Where else would it go other than them?”
Bollerman is a prime example of one of my favorite topics: Abundance.
People with an abundance mindset believe there is plenty of money, power and recognition to share with others. They are the opposite of those operating from a scarcity mindset, who hoard everything from financial resources to credit for a job well done.
As much as we love and respect wealthy and generous people such as Bill and Melinda Gates, it’s people on the lower end of the financial spectrum who are the biggest givers. There’s been a lot of research on this lately. In 2011 Americans in the top 20 percent of the income spectrum contributed 1.3 percent of their income to charity. The people in the bottom 20 percent donated 3.2 percent. University of California, Berkeley researcher Paul Piff suggests that the people most frequently exposed to others in distress are far more in tune with the needs of their fellow man.
If the less able among us freely offer help, then we of greater means have no excuse.
When I talk about abundance, I’m not just talking about financial generosity. I’m talking about sharing your whole self: your talents, ideas, creativity, compassion and, yes, if you can, your wealth. But I didn’t always think this way.
My first job took me to Hillham, Indiana, a tiny town of 11 houses and one grocery store. I was charged with pastoring a church and I directed all of my energy to that task, growing it so much we had to expand into a larger building. A few years later, when my denomination offered me a job at a larger church in Lancaster, Ohio, I was determined to make similar strides. By 1975 our church had the fastest-growing Sunday School in the state.
I was excited. I was proud. I was also obsessed with comparing my results to those of my fellow pastors. I scrutinized our denomination’s annual report. Where do I rank? How am I doing? How do I stand out now? Do you think I was about to share the secrets of my success with my colleagues? Hardly.
After realizing my errors and acknowledging my selfishness, I promised to dedicate my career to training other leaders, to sharing whatever knowledge I picked up along the way so others could add it to their own, magnify it and hand it to someone else.
Related: The Power of Sharing What You Know
Thinking abundantly is a first step toward adding value to others. And when you add value to others, your significance grows. It’s an upward cycle.
So how do we learn to ditch scarcity and embrace abundance?
1. Strive for personal success.
Discover your gifts. What do you have to offer the world? What’s uniquely yours to give? Amass your wealth (and remember, I’m not just talking about money) so you can dole it out to others.
2. Share your accomplishments.
If you achieve a victory at work, will you claim the glory or recognize others who have contributed toward the goal? If you discover a more efficient procedure, a better way of doing business or a new strategy, will you keep it under wraps or shout it out to others on your team?
3. Offer encouragement.
A kind word is a gift. Sometimes we feel like we have nothing to give, but we can always conjure up a statement of support. Who knows? Your words might inspire someone to take the next step in his or her journey.
4. Stay connected.
There’s nothing wrong with working your way to the corner office. In fact, I encourage your aspirations. But as you sit at the top, don’t lose sight of the pressures and challenges that people on different levels of the economic ladder face. What can you give to them?
5. Think like a servant.
We’re wired from the time we’re kids to protect our own self-interests—to be the best athlete, the top scholar, the class president, whatever. Rarely do we think about being the team player or the teacher—someone like Bollerman—who sacrifices his or her wants, needs, fame or fortune so that someone else might excel.
6. Consider the ocean.
When you stand on the beach and watch the waves hit the shore, do you think there’s any end to the water? That’s how the abundance mindset works.
When you stand on the beach and watch the waves hit the shore, do you think there’s any end to the water? There is, of course, but we can’t comprehend it, so we think seawater is endlessly abundant. You would never deny a bucketful to a child building a sand castle because you can refill that bucket again and again. That’s how the abundance mindset works. You give away praise, recognition, ideas, knowledge and money because you know there’s plenty to go around. What you give away will come back to you a thousand times over. I guarantee it.
Related: How to Make Others Feel Significant
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.