It’s a lesson in the golden rule, online. Some seven years ago, after a near-(business) death with Google’s ad-serving platform (AdSense), I started hanging out at the Google AdSense Help forum. There was no money in it for me, and about six months after joining the forum as a regular contributor, I had an on-line run-in with a truly evil person, who sought to have my AdSense account permanently disabled through a two-week sabotage attack.
I survived that attack, and then received a surprising response from Google. Would I like to become a Top Contributor (volunteer moderator) on the forum? “Sure,” I answered. The reward for this new status: Access to a special private forum, and a T-Shirt.
But a few months later, all the Top Contributors received a surprising email from Mountain View. Google invited us to a summit in Northern California. The company would pay for our plane tickets, three nights in a hotel, and all of our food and drink costs while in California. A free trip . . .
That turned out to be the first of what will tomorrow become my fifth invitation to a Google party. The surprise and anticipation from the first experiences has dissipated somewhat, but I certainly appreciate the opportunity to connect with my forum peers and peek into the technology brains behind the company. (We are instructed not to discuss specific things we learn during the summit, under a non-disclosure agreement, but they certainly provide insights about the future.)
Three years ago I sensed it was time to take things to another level, and I purchased a meaningful quantity of Google (now Alphabet) shares. They weren’t cheap then — at an average purchase price of $580US a share. But certainly the shares have done well, reaching about $1,050 a share last week. I didn’t have any information to violate insider trading rules, but certainly had enough of an understanding of the company to sense it would be a good investment.
When you count the appreciation of the shares, plus the cash equivalent cost of five expense-paid trips, my voluntary investment in helping out on an online forum has certainly paid off.
But the point is I started this journey without expecting anything at all. There was no business-building intent behind my contributions; “nothing for me”.
Yet this sort of “good things happen” occurs with much frequency. Sincere charity and community service, and respectful and selfless dealings with associations and other companies will often result in surprising rewards. You can’t program them into your business plan or expect them to happen, of course. Yet if you forget your self-interest and focus on helpful and practical contributions, you’ll often enjoy some real advantages. Be good.