Tips and Gifts

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

  • Why do we tip, especially at restaurants in the US? We tip because it is not only a cultural thing to do, but also a status lever. We tip twenty percent because it is worth at least twenty-five percent for us to do that. The story we tell ourselves is that it is worth the status that we gain when we are dining with the people we are seeking to improve our status with.
  • Sylvia Bloom decided to give away eight million dollars to a charity that she was not an active part of. Why would someone do that and what motivates us to be generous? When some people donate and get a prominent asset named after themselves millions of dollars, they are doing it not just because they want to help but also because their status goes up. Both cases show what is being purchased is a story that we tell ourselves. It is a story about the impact that we can make about our relationship with other people. It also can be a story about power, status, belonging, our parents, or about our children.
  • There are two lessons that nonprofit leaders can take away from this examination of tipping. The first one is that “people like us do things like this” is the definition of culture. It establishes a cultural standard. With cultural standard, it indicates either someone is one of us or is falling behind. The second thing is that raising money is a service. It is a service because we cannot force someone to do it, but we can open the door for them to contribute.
  • When we think about tipping, we should be mindful that tipping in restaurant creates problems for equity and professionalism reasons. That person, whether at the table or in the kitchen, deserves the same dignity of knowing that they did a good job simply because they could. Their paychecks should not depend on the luck someone happens to leave an extra big tip. Those folks are professionals like us, and they deserve a living wage that we can give them. If we understand that, we do not have to put on the status show every time we go out for lunch or dinner.
  • Tipping helps us see that everyone tells ourselves the story on whatever we are doing. It is all about telling ourselves a story of what is it for, who is it for, and what difference are we, people like us, seeking to make?
  • Culture can be hard to change because the status quo is good at fighting change. Many people have come along and tried to change the culture and failed. Most people go the easy route, so that is why the status quo exists for a long time. So what we need to do is to figure out if we have got a chance to earn people’s enrollment. Change requires us to intentionally create tension, the tension between the status quo and the possibility of better. It is a complicated process, and it is called marketing.
  • Marketing is not the simple act of advertising. Marketing is the act of causing a change to happen, not to everyone but to a small group of people, people who are eager for something different. Each of us can either ratchet things down, which is selfish, or ratchet things up to create something that we can be proud of.