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The Gifts You Don't Know You're Giving

You can't know how others will react to the things you share, but the gift is in the sharing of YOU.

Ashley Janssen
Ashley Janssen
5 min read
The Gifts You Don't Know You're Giving
Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

My good friend, Karen, recently interviewed me as part of a productivity workshop series I taught for a mentorship group we are both involved in.

Karen is a journalist. She worked for many years for one of our local newspapers and went on to start several ventures, the most current of which is Taproot Publishing.

Karen and I have been friends since 2014 and I've been her business coach for many years.

During the interview, Karen shared several of her memories of how we met, our friendship, and our working relationship. She used these as the frame to guide the questions she asked me.

It was fascinating to hear these memories from her perspective and I was surprised and humbled to hear the impact of one memory in particular.

Karen and I met at a conference where she was a facilitator of mini-sessions between main stage speakers. She was smart, funny, and had an amazing laugh. I liked her immediately. I introduced myself after her session and we hit it off. We connected several times after the conference… one of which was my first speaking gig ever, where she interviewed me as part of a panel on entrepreneurship!

Fast forward to a few days after Christmas 2015. Karen was about 6 months into a new business and, last we spoke, she was struggling a little. Though I don’t remember it specifically, I sent her this text:

“Hey Karen, I was thinking of you and wanted to check in to see how you are doing.”

Karen credits that simple text with changing her life.

Photo by Jens Johnsson

When she received it, Karen was standing outside in her snowy backyard, feeling hopeless. Things were not going well in her entrepreneurial journey and she didn’t know how to move forward.

We texted back and forth and I offered to meet with her to see if there was anything I could do to help her figure out her next steps. I was 6 years into my entrepreneurial journey and I thought I could share some of my experiences with her, and at least be a sounding board as she worked through her options.

In the interview, Karen said:

“That text changed my life. Without that text, there would be no Alberta Podcast Network, no Taproot, I would be working for someone else instead of myself.”

When Karen shared this sentiment, I was so surprised because I didn’t know how important that brief text (which I don’t remember sending) was to her.

We had our first meeting in January 2015 to talk about prioritization, being intentional, and how she could better look after the most important business asset of all … HER. I shared some of my experiences as an entrepreneur and some tools I had picked up along the way.

Unbeknownst to either of us at the time, Karen became my first consulting client.

In the same way that Karen believes I changed her life, she changed mine. She started me on the road to the consulting practice I am growing now.



The gifts you don’t know you are giving

A recurring theme I've experienced as I grow my consulting business and write this newsletter is:

We don’t know the impact we have on others.

We don’t know how our words, actions, and small kindnesses stick with people. A simple text started both Karen and me down new paths that we might not have otherwise taken. Or, at the very least, that simple text was a signal to Karen that she wasn't alone.

I shared with her my interest in her well-being, my time to help her through a hard thing, and my experience for whatever it was worth to her.

Every time you share some of yourself, you signal to others they're not alone

I have the privilege of hearing how my words, through these articles, impact my readers. Strangers and friends alike, from all over the world, regularly tell me that something I wrote resonated in some way or changed something for them.

Karen’s story and these messages help me keep going when I feel like I am writing into the abyss or that I am not cut out for the work I do. They are signals that I am not alone and the work I do is important.

I don’t pretend to think that I am changing lives with my articles. But there is something to be said about making someone think a little differently, or feel validated or understood, even if only for a small part of their day.

Photo by James Wheeler

The gift is in the sharing of yourself

People who read my articles or hear podcast interviews often comment on how open I am. They're surprised at how much I am willing to share about my life, health, experiences, and feelings. I'm regularly asked how I can be vulnerable so publicly.

The truth is, it’s hard.

I experience varying levels of trepidation each time I publish something. The more personal, the more vulnerable it feels to share. Each article is an opportunity for criticism. But the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Over and over I am reminded that people respond to vulnerability with vulnerability and authenticity with authenticity.

I keep a “Nice Comments” folder where I take screenshots of the emails or messages I receive about my articles or speaking (some might even feature one of you!). I started it in November 2021 and it currently has 61 entries. They're motivators to keep going when I wonder if anything I write matters.

I've learned the gift is in sharing myself, even the messy parts and (perhaps especially) when it's scary. With each kind comment I get, I'm reminded that we're more alike than we know. It's comforting to know that somewhere out there, someone else understands.

What gifts can you give?

There's a strange freedom and fear mixed up with not knowing how my words will impact those who read them, if at all. But the truth is, I can’t know how they'll hit. And neither can you.

You can’t know how someone will receive your writing, art, or even a simple text to check in. But each time you share yourself with the world, it's an opportunity.

We all have so much more to give than we think. Sometimes it's the smallest connection that leaves a lasting impression.

Be vulnerable, and open with your talents and interests with the world. Be kind, reach out, and ask yourself:

What gift will I give today?


If you're feeling overwhelmed and feel like you're drowning, schedule a free one-on-one consultation. I can help.

IntentionReflection
Ashley Janssen

Ashley Janssen

Productivity consultant, writer, speaker, serial entrepreneur, chaos calmer, introvert, cat-lady. Lover of books, fitness, old fashioned’s, basketball, and video games.

Follow me on Twitter, and LinkedIn.


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