Six words to live by

February 18 2016

Twenty-five of us gathered as strangers with secrets to share.

John Rubadeau, an English professor at the University of Michigan, implored us to make the private public. He did so by asking each of us to pen a short essay, an essay in which we’d share our secrets.

I learned of the moment Randy’s life had turned upside down and that Kyle actually met her boyfriend on jDate, along with 22 other closely-held secrets..

For each 3-page essay we read, John expected every us to write six pages of feedback. My final essay was three pages, and I received 144 pages of critique. John called this quid pro quo.

Our commitment to improving each other’s work paid huge dividends; individual students couldn’t become better writers, the entire class had to improve as a unit.

By the semester’s end, John had transformed this group of strangers into a family. In three pages, I learned more from my classmates than I had learned from many of my friends.

After graduating from college, I took my fondness for entrepreneurship, startups, and design thinking and turned it into a career. Though my work is fulfilling, I’ve found it difficult to practice quid pro quo in the tech industry.

I’ve had one true quid pro quo moment in my adult life. My mother was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, and I was asked to donate my stem cells to her. It was an obvious decision––one that any child would make. She lived, and I am thankful for modern medicine each and every day.

Then, three months ago, I received a call from Be the Match; a 62-year old male with blood cancer needed a stem cell transplant and now I’m donating stem cells a second time. I’ll be physically uncomfortable for a week, but I’m ecstatic because I have the opportunity to extend this man’s life.

It’s exceedingly rare for someone to donate stem cells twice, and donating stem cells is easily the most selfless, generous thing I’ve ever done. As I’ve prepared for this second stem cell experience, I’ve realized that I need to be more generous in my daily life.

Which brings me to John’s second piece of advice: scratch your itch. Being kind––to myself and to others––has become an itch that I need to scratch.

I want to help myself, and others, be more generous in their daily life. I dream of taking John’s advice into the virtual world––a community where people challenge each other to live a more fulfilled and selfless life.

Imagine if, every day, you received a prompt that would help you live a more balanced, mindful, and generous life. With these prompts, you’d get exposure to new perspectives and you’d push the limits of your comfort zone. Each prompt would be written by a member of the community; you’d be able to track your own progress, and see how many others participated in the daily quid pro quo prompt.

Examples of daily prompts:
Generosity: Buy a stranger coffee, with no strings attached
Relax: Walk a mile without pulling out your phone. Listen and observe
Bury the hatchet: Apologize for something you’ve regretted for a long time

If you’re interested in practicing quid pro quo on a daily basis, send a prompt idea to [email protected]. I’ll start sending you prompts to live a more mindful, generous life and you’ll be helping me scratch an itch of my own.

Whatever you do, remember these six words to live a better life and have a more fulfilling career: quid pro quo & scratch your itch.

Jack Wheeler
[email protected]

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