“You don't need the latest sports car, you don't need the biggest house. The truth is, you don't get satisfaction from those things. You know what really gives you satisfaction?...Offering others what you have to give...I don't mean money, Mitch. I mean your time…” – Morrie Schwartz
In the New York Times bestselling memoir Tuesdays with Morrie, writer Mitch Albom shares the many lessons he learned from his mentor, and former college professor, Morrie Schwartz during their conversations in Schwartz’s hospital room in the months before his passing from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). One of the most profound, for me, rested in the above quote, wherein Schwartz explains that offering others our time will create that feeling of satisfaction we so often seek. I learned a lot about the giving of time when I talked with Austin Baker recently about his latest undertaking The Giving Hour: “a community connectivity engine designed to engage, inspire and better connect all of the outstanding and talented individuals in our community…” It does this by asking just one thing of its participants: spend an hour of time mentoring someone through one of the many partnership organizations involved.
Funded entirely by his company HRO Partners, Baker has infused his own personal philosophy of giving into the creation of this network which seeks to empower at least 10,000 local participants to pay it forward with their resource of time. It is a resource he has so willingly shared over the years both publicly and privately and is one reason, I believe, for his company’s remarkable growth as of late (between August and September of 2017, 35 people were added to their team.) While he did not specifically mention this growth during our conversation, he did mention one of the things most important to him and his staff when they meet with clients and their employees: spending time with them to properly ascertain their individual needs. Baker shares that he and his team make it a priority to spend the necessary time explaining, one-on-one, why a particular benefits plan may be preferable over another, or what certain terminology within that plan’s documents really means. A few minutes here and there may not seem like much but to the clients and employees who are given this gift of time in the face of life-impacting decisions, it makes a big difference.
Privately, with no requisite for acknowledgement of such and no bearing on his company’s bottom line,
Baker is quite generous with time, too. While I can personally attest to this by tallying up the number of collective hours he’s spent both speaking with and listening to me even as his calendar was chock-full of appointments and obligations, someone able to share an even deeper perspective on this is Arsen Petrosyan, Human Resources Support Liaison with HRO, Partners and core administrator of The Giving Hour.
Petrosyan joined HRO Partners as an intern with “not much experience”. He reflects that under Baker’s guidance he’s grown both professionally and “behind-the-scenes”, garnering a deep respect for this company and community leader who “gives great feedback…pushes internal call to action.” It is partly in seeing the example set by Baker that prompted Petrosyan to consider his own path of giving, which led him to sign up as a mentor with tnAchieves. He wanted to give his time to an organization that tied together learning and career goals, one that had personal relationships with its participants. He found this in tnAchieves whose mission is “to increase higher education opportunities for Tennessee high school students by providing last-dollar scholarships with mentor guidance.” Petrosyan shares with me an analogy on giving he has embraced from his experience as a Taekwondo student: “[I] focus on the ground below, not the board. The bigger you set your goals the more you’ll achieve, no matter how small the movement.”
One of the goals I’ve set for myself, and have yet to remotely master, is being a better steward with my time. More days than not I feel I’ve lost the battle with tasks left undone and phone calls left unmade (so sorry, Mom.) During my meeting that morning with Baker I asked him (maybe more than once) how he managed to fit it all in. As someone who incessantly declares “I just don’t have enough time” I couldn’t grasp how he found the time to run a successful company, be actively engaged in mentorship and giving back- including his involvement in the University of Memphis’ MILE Program, of which he is co-founder- and be present as a husband and father. His answer centered on the importance of priorities. For Baker, giving is a priority that has become evident to those around him. His gift of time as a business leader and mentor has set in motion a desire for others to do the same, such as Petrosyan who states, “Mentorship is designed to last and be repeated; it is a pay-it-forward idea.”
Let’s all find a way to pay it forward in 2018.
This blog was the last in my “Giving” series which began with “Giving Thanks”, a reflection on the work of Roy Ray and Gray Carter with the Rotary Family and Youth Initiative. Incidentally, I was introduced to Ray and Carter by Austin Baker, whose gifts of time and mentorship have extended to this organization, as well.
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