, the wife of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, died last year, leaving an estimated $16.4 billion to charity. Walton was at one point the richest woman in the world, but one of her favorite sayings was, "It's not what you gather in life, but what you scatter in life that tells the kind of life you have lived."
Since I ran across this quote, "stop gathering and start scattering" has become a mantra around my home and office. The first place I've decided it applies is my physical environment. I'll be the first to admit that I am a magnet for clutter. I have far too many interests for one person, and each of them attracts quantities of, well, stuff.
Stuff like books, flyers, brochures, business cards, magazines, newspapers, more books, needlework and crafts projects, scrapbooking materials, souvenirs from my travels, more books, music and home study courses on LP's, audiocassettes, and CD's (thank heaven for the iPod), videos on DVD's and videotapes, more books... I'm sure you get the picture.
In this physical realm, what "stop gathering and start scattering" means to me is gathering up the things that no longer hold as much interest as they once did, and scattering them out in the world where someone else can get value from them. Recently, I filled two large boxes with materials from the era when I was interested in planetary exploration and space travel. I donated my collection of books, maps, posters, slides, models, and research reports to a local science teacher who was thrilled to have them for his middle school class. Scattering felt very satisfying.
The next level of applying this mantra for me is with my writing. I write a lot of material that isn't published anywhere, or perhaps only to a small circulation. Some of it is good, useful stuff. As with the items cluttering my shelves, drawers, and closets, more people should have a chance to make use of what I've written. After all, once I write it, I'm pretty much done with it myself.
To that end, I've been working lately on publishing and reprinting more of what I've written for a wider audience. For example, I have a chapter in the book Guerrilla Marketing on the Front Lines
, released this month, and one of my articles was the lead feature in the August issue of Home Business
. More scattering, with positive results.
The third plane where this mantra applies is in the world of ideas. And this, I think, is where it could become a helpful bit of guidance for any would-be hero. If I have a useful idea, and I don't share it, no one else can benefit from it. In an average week, the new ideas running through my head might range from a profitable new line of business for a colleague who produces newsletters, to a design for a training/coaching program to help people launch social change ventures, to the outline of platform points for an international movement to use business models as a tool for making the world a better place.
If ideas like these just stay in my head (or yours), what good are they doing anyone? Perhaps it's personally rewarding to think them up, but then what? Can continuing to gather ideas, without scattering them out in the world, possibly benefit anyone but the gatherer?
And so, chanting my new mantra, I find myself looking now for the best ways to begin scattering more of my ideas. It's not quite as simple as collecting them in a box and posting a notice on Craigslist: "ideas, free to a good home." Nor can they really be published, like writing can, when they are not yet fully formed.
No, an idea that is represented nowhere other than a cryptic note on an envelope back or a bar napkin has little value. Ideas need to be developed in order to become useful. And herein lies one of the hero's biggest challenges. Developing an idea takes time and energy. Spending time on one means that others will suffer. Many ideas have potential value; how do you choose between them? And if you keep having new ideas, when is there ever time to go back to the old ones?
Perhaps I will never be able to develop and share a fraction of the ideas I have gathered. But I have a renewed commitment now to scattering as many as I can. After all, they're just collecting dust around here.
If you're looking for a few new ideas and could give them a good home, please let me know.
Labels: life purpose, social action