Give Generously, Don’t Keep Score

May 27, 2024


Give generously; don’t keep score.

I do my best to live by a principle I developed years ago – give generously, don’t keep score.

Let’s further examine this core belief. First, ‘giving generously’ is deeply tied to an abundance mindset. If we believe in scarcity, we lose something every time we give. But if we believe in abundance, we realize life isn’t a zero-sum game. For example, intangibles such ideas multiply, rather than contract, when shared.

Next, we have the ‘don’t keep score’ part. Keeping a running tally is taxing and only leads to resentment, whereas freeing yourself from this burden allows you to truly savor the gift of giving. Not to mention, the world has a way of repaying generosity; no scorecard required.

I find this to be a liberating way to live. Ironically, giving generously without keeping score actually delivers better results in the long run than if I’d anchored on a scarcity mindset and spent time counting every deed.

If you’re skeptical, try it for 30 days. My hunch is that you’ll reap double rewards: joy in the moment and longer-term, tangible results.

Run a 'pre-mortem'.

Air Force pilots conduct thorough debriefs after each important mission to evaluate and learn from the experience. Business leaders often do the same, in the form of a ‘post-mortem’.

But why wait until after the fact? Instead, let’s move upstream to before the chaos while we still have time to affect the outcome.

Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape) famously sent a memo to the whole company in 1994 (at the height of their success) called “The Top 10 Reasons We’re Going out of Business.” The memo showcased areas for improvement and highlighted their biggest internal and external threats.

I borrowed the idea years later when building my own company, establishing our own Top 10 Traps, which included:

  1. Ignoring the customer’s voice and being too focused on “us.”
  2. Succumbing to bureaucracy instead of remaining nimble.
  3. Believing our own PR, getting cocky, and resting on our laurels.
  4. Losing urgency and straying from our fire-in-the-belly origins.
  5. Not sweating the small stuff. De-emphasizing attention to detail.

In today’s volatile, AI-disrupted, and rapid-change world, we’re on the cusp of a new era of business. Indeed, it’s the perfect time to act early and run a ‘pre-mortem’.

What pitfalls can you foresee now and avoid later?

Dog Drool & Kitty Puddle.

Dog Drool & Kitty Puddle.

Avery’s Beverages – a company founded in a red Connecticut barn over 100 years ago – was struggling. When Sherman Avery started making handcrafted soda in 1904, he wasn’t facing the crushing competitive pressure of industry giants like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. But by their centennial anniversary, things were so bad that the company strongly considered dropping the soda business altogether.

For fun, Avery’s Beverages tried a little experiment in conjunction with the 2008 presidential election cycle – they produced a small batch of Barack O’Berry and John McCream sodas. When the whimsical new offerings immediately sold out, Avery’s saw and seized their opening. Next came Totally Gross Sodas – dedicated to the ten-year-old in all of us, flavors included Dog Drool, Bug Barf, Zombie Brain-Juice, and Monster Mucus. These Totally Gross Sodas® flavors became an instant hit among kids, college students, and curious adults – you can see more here.

Today, the company continues to launch whimsical, culturally relevant small-batch sodas that make customers smile. Its success was predicated on standing out rather than blending in; no celebrity endorsements or Super Bowl ads were required.

What might a standing-out-rather-than-blending-in approach look like in your business?

Bug Barf Soda Flavor

Are You a Thermostat or Thermometer?

While these two temperature-related instruments may be easily confused, my business partner, Seth Mattison, pointed out to me the crucial difference. Thermometers depict the current temperature with remarkable precision, while thermostats are used to adjust the temperature, not merely report it.

Leadership isn’t about reporting what already is, but imagining what can be and taking an active role in manifesting your vision. It’s about proactively driving change rather than merely reacting to external circumstances.

You can be a thermostat by…

Raising the energy of the room with your enthusiasm.
Setting a new change initiative in motion and then finding a way to get it done.
Creating and sharing content with the world to change hearts and minds.

As thermostats, we each become the architect, designer, and builder. We envision a better future and then launch those intentions into action. We become active drivers of change rather than succumbing to it.

Thermometers serve their purpose as decent gauges of the current state, but we can be so much more when we take command of the dial.

Fancy thermostat

To your creative success…


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About Josh

Josh Linkner is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, venture capital investor, professional jazz guitarist, and a globally recognized innovation expert. To learn more or to explore a collaboration, visit