As children, our parents taught us the importance, and joy, of sharing. We learned how to play nice with others, allow classmates to use our toys, and break our cookie in half if we had one but our friend didn’t. It’s easy for kids to realize that hide and seek is more fun if everyone plays, and children enjoy inviting the kid who just moved in to come over for a playdate…But then we grew up.
As adults, we’re now more suspicious of others. We’re reluctant to trust strangers and apprehensive about others’ intentions. We too often allow our insecurities or selfishness to govern our thoughts and actions. We are also overly concerned about optics; thus, we frequently misrepresent ourselves in hopes of improving how others view us, or treat us.
These adult tendencies are normal, but that doesn’t make them right. And they certainly aren’t productive when it comes to growing our businesses.
We should adopt a more child-like approach when interacting with others, giving more people the benefit of the doubt, and more frequently reaching out to others capable of enriching our life while expecting little, or nothing, in return. Sharing opens doors to unexpectedly awesome opportunities, new friendships, and rewarding experiences. And having a healthy sharing philosophy is a prerequisite to thriving within the sharing economy.
Unfortunately, some people suck at sharing.
I’ve been building a B2B job sharing platform for several years. It exploits macro trends regarding the ever-growing freelance economy, and it maximizes the well-documented appeal of contingent workers. Our tech and business proposition are nicely aligned with the socio-economic and cultural tidal waves that are transforming 9–5 jobs as we know them. But there is one glaring difference between the early adopters who have embraced our community, and the skeptics who have refused to even consider it. That difference is how well people share with others.
Good sharers possess many desirable qualities:
- They are generous
- They routinely express gratitude
- They feel an inert desire to give back
- They are vulnerable
I especially like that last point, because being a good sharer is similar to being a good friend, and good friends are vulnerable with each other. Given the meteoric rise in Brene Brown’s popularity, it’s obvious many people within North America are struggling with vulnerability.
I’ve seen invulnerability manifest itself while talking with hundreds of agency owners and solopreneurs about how best to reimagine their operating model and talent management. The skeptics display the most ego (i.e. “I know exactly that I’m doing and won’t change a thing!”), yet also exhibit symptoms of someone suffering from low confidence, fear, or pessimism.
More importantly, the nay-sayers are quick to shun the idea of giving, or receiving, help from outsiders. They distrust others, and despise the idea of opening up to peers who run comparable businesses and face similar challenges. Bad sharers lack the desire to belong to something bigger than themselves, and I believe it’s because they don’t want to appear vulnerable in any way. As Brene said, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not claiming everyone who ignores my invitation to join our job-sharing site is insecure, or sucks at sharing. There are valid reasons why people would choose an alternative offering, or simply opt out of professional job-sharing services all together. What I’m sharing with you is an observation that the people who are thriving within sharing eco-systems seem to display all the same attributes of kids who have learned how to share and play well with others. These people more easily accept they can accomplish more by working together, and aren’t afraid to initiate the first step by asking for help, or offering to give help.
That resonates with how I want to live my life.
Why? Because, as Brene also said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” I want to be more innovative, creative, and lead change, rather than be a victim to it. I gladly partner with other likeminded individuals who share those ambitions and are willing to assist me when needed.
The easiest way for me to access top talent and top sharers is by utilizing platforms that foster collaboration and facilitate communication. I avoid all services seeking to make money on my ability to share by charging me commissions on the work I give or get. It’s ridiculous to pay steep fees (often 10%-30%) simply for using 3rd party talent aggregators. And I shun any platform that devalues my work by offering my services to the lowest bidder. I share to make my quality of life better, not to work harder for less money.
Different strokes for different folks, but I believe sharing ideas, talent, projects, resources, expenses, opportunities, knowledge, and dreams makes entrepreneurship easier. I suggest we add “be a good sharer” to the long list of qualities small business owners should possess in order to maximize their odds of success.