The Value Of Giving A $30,000 Idea Away For Free

Jun 12, 2020
 Created by the author — original image from Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash


Do you ever get imposter syndrome before talking to someone who has success you admire? That’s exactly how I felt before a call with Todd Brison, a bestselling author in creativity, who had done it all while keeping a 9–5. But imposter syndrome had to battle with my savior complex where I need to be useful.

Luckily my savior complex won out. Todd was grounded and opened up to me about the challenges he faced. He wrote over 700 articles for free and wanted a realistic way to monetize them. Republishing one was easy; 5–10 minutes of work of copying and pasting and some reformatting. Yet the thought of needing to do this so many times led to procrastination.

He was thinking about a technology solution but some of his work was time-critical. Publishing a story about an event that happened 3 years ago would confuse his fans pretty quickly. How would an algorithm work this out? Yet he hadn’t thought of one simple thing. He didn’t have to do the dirty work himself.

I suggested he paid a teenage child of someone he knew to do it for him. It would be a win-win for everyone especially for someone interested in writing. Todd would be free to continue the creative side he loved. The helper would earn an income meaningful for them and learn from an expert. Todd averages $10-$50 per monetized article but some go viral and make thousands alone! Even if 1% of articles made $1000 and the rest fell in the average range, he’d easily top $30000.

If it does, I won’t earn a dime but I don’t have any regrets.


Value is in the eye of the beholder

This idea was so valuable to Todd because of years of hard work it took him to have such a back library. I didn’t write 700 articles for free so I’d run out of tasks for a teenager very quickly.

If I kept the idea secret, all I could have done is deprive someone else of potential income. It cost me nothing to come up with the idea, I haven’t lost anything. So there are two scenarios. I stay quiet and we are both neutral or I talk and I stay the same and he wins. The maths is simple, someone winning is better than no one!

It’s important to remember, the potential money from these articles is derived from the value it adds to the readers’ lives. Not only is this idea helping Todd but potentially millions of readers too. The same is true of almost any customer-facing product. If you support someone to increase their reach then you’re helping all of the people who discover them too.


Authentic generosity strengthens relationships

When talking business with others, it’s easy to get lost in what you can get out of it. Maybe some of you read this and think I only gave him the idea to create some kind of debt. Yet you can help people without being a master manipulator like Machiavelli.

Relationships based on a ledger of who did what can be exhausting. I don’t believe in holding back until the books are balanced. It’s a classic nice guy fallacy of helping with the expectation of something in return. You aren’t nice if you are only doing when you want something back.

When Todd liked the idea, I lit up, I was happy this was going to be a positive impact in his life. I want him to do well. Can you honestly say this about others even if you never talk to them again? You hope your friends and family are happy for you when you succeed. Practice forming relationships like this until it becomes your default.


Practice your skills on different problems

When you help others, it allows you to flex your problem-solving muscles. The lone wolf is limited by their problems. By being self-obsessed, they miss out on many opportunities to grow.

Why are you reading this right now? You want to learn from other people’s experiences. The best way to do this is to be there with them. If you’re trying to understand how to tackle common startup problems, help out your friends! You’ll live through them and learn the same lessons they do. Their way of looking at things may be different from yours and you can add this to your toolset.

When you make a habit of this, you can run your company for a year but have the knowledge of ten years. What faster way to learn is there? The more people you help, the more diverse the problems you’ll see. It makes you far more resilient when issues knock at your door.


Altruism boosts your health

It’s no secret a happy mind helps lead to a healthy body. The busyness of modern life can mean we drown in our stress hormone, cortisol. This has all kinds of nasty effects on us. Feeling good about yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

The helper’s high is the warm glow we feel after being there for someone else. I felt it after assisting Todd. Our body releases endorphins and even better we don’t need to feel guilty for this kind of pleasure. It’s less dangerous than many other ways of chasing a high! Just make sure you stay mindful to avoid burnout.

By adding value to others and not asking for help in return, you are effectively being a volunteer. A study by the University of Pennsylvania found the amount you volunteer was a significant predictor of mental and physical health. If you feel a bit lost at the moment, maybe helping others could be the way out for you. This is priceless.


What you need to take away

The value of an idea goes way beyond what money you can make from it. If you look at everything with dollar goggles you’ll stunt your potential.

If an idea is worthless to you but could mean a lot to someone else why not give it away? Doing so can increase the strength of your relationship especially when you don’t track. Helping solve other people’s problems sharpens your skills to fix future issues. Last but not least, the high you get from giving something away can improve your mental and physical health.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.