Sunday, 24 April 2011

Paying It Forward

I've had a few people ask me about what I meant by "Paying it forward" in my first blog so I thought I'd write a few words to explain what I meant. I wish I could take the credit for such a great idea however the concept has been around since ancient Greek times. It became famous in 2000 when the novel "Pay it Forward" by Catherine Ryan Hyde was released and it was popularised by the film of the same name starring Haley Joel Osment and Kevin Spacey. And you can find out more at

So what is it?

Most people will be familiar with the saying "Paying someone back" where a good deed or act of kindness (although sadly sometimes bad) is returned to the person who originally made the gesture. Although this is undoubtably a fantastic thing to do, "Paying it forward" takes philanthropy to another level. In this process, when you are the recipient of an act of generosity, you are asked to pass on this act to a different person therefore creating a perpetual path of goodness passing from person to person. With no end. And many unknown possibilities.

The skeptics will doubt it's effectiveness, the pessimists will think it is pointless and the critics will say it will never work.

I paid it forward today. I remember the moment and feel great. If the person talks about it even better. If they then act upon it how fantastic is that? I don't need to know what happens afterwards to reap the benefits. And neither do you.


  1. I saw the film a while ago and I agree it is good way to disseminate good deeds.
    However on reflection I asked "Why should one need to be prompted by a good deed done yourself before paying it forward?"
    I try (not consciously just part of my inherent mindset), time allowing, to do good deeds whenever possible, regardless of if I have received one or not. Sometimes I am oblivious to it and I am surprised by the gratitude of the receiver.
    My wife thinks it is 'kindness', I just put it down to not being overly concerned with 'self'.

  2. Great point and there is absolutely no reason to wait - just go do good. However the idea here is to consciously highlight the deed to the recipient so that they go forward and act in the same way. Its a brave idea to ask for something in return and even braver to ask them to remember and pass it on. But trust me the human brain works in wonderful ways and the obligation will weigh heavy on their mind. And believe it or not recent studies have shown that your "likeability" will improve when asking for such things. It's a win, win, win situation.