Volunteering & Exchanging – Social Capital
It took me two more years from when I first started Hot Yoga to actually start volunteering at a studio. I just didn’t know I could exchange my time for unlimited yoga access because I never thought beyond working for money and spending money. Sounds silly right, but I think a lot of people are stuck in that mindset. We’ve all heard the ‘Work until you’re rich’ … and the implication then you can do what you really want… well ain’t that a horrible philosophy. I want to live my life the way I want right now! So I’ve come to realize it’s people that are at the root of everything, and our connection with people is what pierces through the veil of money. I guess at the conceptual level the proper term is “Social Capital”, but for simplicity I think of it as two new currencies: Relationships & Time.
Example of AirBnB & Couchsurfing
It can be hard to tell what I mean by building ‘Social Capital’ when thinking about day to day life. For me, social capital means building relationships in my community, whether that be my geographically neighborhood or yoga community, by giving my time and trust. This has been a huge change in my own life as there are often opportunities to substitute financial costs with social engagements. This point can be easily seen when looking at difference between AirBnB and CouchSurfing platforms.
Both options give you accommodations: AirBnB, you pay to use another person’s empty room, condo or house. CouchSurfing, you are welcomed into someone’s place, invited to dine with them, socialize and as a traveler are occasionally given a guided tour of their city. In return, you treat the other to eat out on the town, or stay in and cook one of your native recipes, drinks tend to be included in either case. In return, you extend an invitation to reciprocate the favor should they ever find themselves in your hometown. Paying Money Vs. Trading Favors and a social commitment.
Another example: I rarely paid for cabs in Asia, people were more than kind enough to give me a lift. Perhaps so I think well of their country and people, or because it is a great honor to help others in that society’s culture. Or perhaps, It’s a favor to be repaid in kind at some point in the indefinite future. Regardless, the price of my travels often came down to a pleasant conversation, volunteering my time or exchanging embarrassing stories. The questions I had to ask myself upon my return were ‘Why don’t I go this back home?’, ‘Why are we so cut off from others in the west?’ taking the time to answer these questions is what motivated me to seek out a yoga trade immediately upon my return to Canada!
What would you do to feel excitement?
Most of us have one primary source of income, our career, with the rest having additional income from investments and side gigs. We even define ourselves by how we make money. It’s the first question people ask, (unless you are my yoga studio), and I can’t stand it! I refuse to ask people that question. I’m so much more than my job and unless you are one of the lucky few doing what they love most, there is more to you too!
With things like Universal Basic Income being tested out that basically guarantees a person a small annual income from the government, like a pension, we have to start asking ‘who we are outside of making money?’ If you were guaranteed a livable minimum income that ensured you had food on the table, heat in the winter and shoes on your feet, how would you contribute to society? What would you do with the freedom of choice? What would you do to feel excitement? I keep telling myself to think beyond money in – money out, it’s not easy, but It’s opening up my world considerably and I challenge you to do the same.
Exchange with People, Not Enterprises.
Volunteering abroad taught me to cut out money entirely for the things I want to have, learn and do. To realize the price isn’t always money, there is always an alternative! After covering your bare necessities, do you really need money to acquire, learn or do what you want? Sometimes, yes, but often no! Not everything has a monetary cost. This weekend I just picked up a bunch of free Japanese languages books & dictionaries, someone didn’t have use for them and figured they’d be useful to others, to me luckily! This stuff happens all the time!
For example, do you pay for a cooking class or ask your elderly neighbor (Mrs. Sharon) for a lesson? Mrs. Sharon would gladly instruct you and your SO for an extra pair of hands prepping her vegetable garden for the new planting season. It’s a good deal for both of you… assuming Mrs. Sharon is a decent chef and she isn’t hiding farm in her backyard. The trick is to ask! Not everything has to be a good or service, run by a company or agency. Don’t be scared of people, engage with them. Help them out and trade favors.
This is one of my goals: Get back in touch with people. If you interact with more businesses in a day than individuals, that’s probably a problem.
Ask yourself, what skills do you have that others need? What do you want to have, learn or do? Don’t be afraid to ask or make an offer, worse case scenario you’ll get a ‘no’ or a weird look. Stop thinking of money and start thinking about what interests you and get after it!
I’ve been reading the 4 Hour WorkWeek by Tim Ferriss. I picked up his book knowing it’s something I’d like given I have similar thoughts on lifestyle design. He has some great pointers on how to make your grandest dreams a reality, by assigning a cost, if there is one, and breaking them down to a daily rate. But I would modify things slightly. Rather than his emphasis that Time and Mobility are the currency of the New Rich, I prefer the slightly cheesy ‘Time & Relationships’ because what good is time, money or mobility if you don’t have valuable relationships to enjoy throughout your life.