When I used to work in restaurants, there was an unspoken rule among those “in the industry.”

If I went to the bar or restaurant where a friend worked, and they got an appetizer or drink “comped” for me, when the bill came, I would tip them on what the full amount of the bill would’ve been plus the cost of the complimentary items. In essence, I was still paying the same amount for the check as I would’ve but the money goes into the hands of my friend, instead of the restaurant.

This is standard in the restaurant industry. The industry takes care of their own and in the end, it all evens out.

I’ve carried that thinking with me ever since.

This Round Of Advice Is On-The-House

I could not even begin to count the brilliant people in my network and extended network. The quantity and quality of the free advice I’ve gotten from this network is immeasurable but likely sits in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of value.

I love talking with smart people. I love learning something new or seeing something from a different perspective. I appreciate when someone is willing to set aside time and generously shower me with their wisdom and experience.

It has saved me time, money, and frustration. Free advice is what helped me to develop The Superhero Institute from the seed of an idea that my wife originally planted in my brain.

But, free advice is not free.

The person who is setting aside time for me is doing it at a cost. It is the opportunity cost of that time. While I appreciate when people set aside their time for me and offer me their counsel, I never want their generosity to negatively impact them and I never want them to think it went unnoticed. Aside from genuine appreciation in the form of words, I’m always looking for how to repay people’s acts of generosity and kindness. If you have ever wondered how to pay for free advice, here are some of the ways I try to repay people for free advice…

  • If their advice includes a book recommendation, I ask them if they have an Amazon affiliate link for the book, so that they can make a few bucks off of the recommendation.
  • If their advice includes a software, service, or equipment, I ask them if they have a referral code or affiliate link, so that they can get credit for the recommendation, or make a little money.
  • If their advice comes with an introduction, I’m on the lookout for introductions I can make to them as soon as possible.
  • If the person giving advice is an author, creator of an online course, or has some other product I can buy, I will often try to make a purchase to support their work.
  • If the person giving advice is running a fundraiser, I’ll try to donate.
  • If the person giving me advice is trying to promote something online, I’ll amplify their message to help it spread.
  • If the person who gave me advice needs my advice on something, I’m happy to give it to them in return, for free.

Some of these options are costly, others are a small outlay of funds or time. It doesn’t cost much to buy a book and if I’m planning on buying something anyway based on the advice they gave me, I’d rather they make a few dollars from it.

I give a lot of free advice.

Aside from literally giving away 2 full hours of consulting per week during office hours, I also routinely make time during the week to chat with someone for 10-15 minutes. People hit me up with texts throughout the day and I’m often happy to reply, when I’m available.

I don’t give free advice expecting to get paid for it. I genuinely enjoy helping people. As corny as it may sound, seeing people succeed is its own reward for me.

That said, I am always genuinely grateful for those rare moments where someone proactively offers to use one of my affiliate links to buy something they were planning on buying anyway following my advice.

All of these are nice gestures, and the support, though not expected, is always greatly appreciated. It’s kind of the like the surprise and delight of getting a free drink at your local bar.

The Hidden Economy

black and gray abstract art

On a certain level, it’s important to understand that there is an entire economy of social capital being exchanged. This marketplace is mostly invisible and there are no public ledgers. You cannot hack this system and you cannot manipulate these markets.

Every act of kindness and generosity is a deposit that’s been made. The more deposits you have made, and the more diversified those deposits are, the greater your ability to make withdrawals in the future should you need it.

When someone does something for me, the least I can do is see that my debts are at a minimum by giving back a little. If there are givers and takers, I will choose to be a giver every time. In fact, I’m hoping to leave this earth with an unfathomable social capital balance left uncashed.

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