Thanksgiving and Giving Back: Some meaningful ways to “pay it forward”

It’s the season to count our blessings. Sometimes, it takes some effort to slow down and really remind ourselves of all that we have to be grateful for. Our success-driven culture rewards us for constantly looking ahead, focusing on what we want accomplish next. Staying ten steps ahead can be great—it’s this fast-track philosophy that spurs us to chase opportunities, grow our businesses, seek excellence, and dream big. We just have to also find time to pause, downshift, and appreciate what we have in the present and what it has taken to get here.

One wonderful way of thanksgiving is to give back, turning appreciation into action. Maybe you donate to a cause close to your heart, or make a gift of your most important resource of all—your time. Whether you volunteer this season or work in your community on an ongoing basis, your assistance is incredibly valuable—both to those in need, and to your own sense of fulfillment.

(You can find great opportunities to contribute to your community through national charities like the American Red Cross, or through organizations in your area that connect volunteers with local causes: for my fellow New Yorkers, the nonprofit New York Cares has one such site.)

Desire-Joseph Mercier said that “we must not only give what we have; we must also give what we are.” Something I have been incredibly grateful for in my career on Wall Street is the guidance of mentors, which is why I focus my personal efforts on serving as a role model and mentor to everyone from other entrepreneurs to high school students.

If you can find the time to mentor someone, be it in your professional field or in your community, your efforts can come back to the world manifold. It’s like that old saying about teaching someone to fish—if you contribute the expertise and experience you’ve gained from your own successes and failures, your time can have an even bigger impact than monetary donations in their quest for success. They in turn can pay it forward to help another, who helps another, and another—the chain goes on and on.

We all have unique blessings for which to be grateful, and we all have unique gifts to contribute to the community and the world around us. If you find that your niche for giving back lies in becoming a mentor, then your gift will help someone else find the encouragement, support, and inspiration to pursue success.