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What Do You Give to the Man Who Has Everything?

I had a meeting recently with the former chairman of Goldman Sachs. You would imagine him as the type of person who has everything that he wants and there's nothing he can’t easily get, right? This is a man who’s all about New York. He knows everybody.

At the very end of the meeting, I said, “This has been extraordinary valuable to me. Thank you so much for this discussion.” We had been talking about my foundation, Greenlight Giving. I said, “How long is your to-do list right now?” And he said, “Well, it’s interesting that you asked that, because I was just working on that list last week, and there are about 28 big things I need to be working on right now.”

I said, “Would you do me the biggest favor in the world and take one thing on that list that you think I could add any value to and please give me an assignment? Because I would love the ability to come back here again, and I frankly don’t feel like I have earned that right until I’m able to be of greater service to you. You’ve given me so much time.”

And he said, “Well, how about this. Stick around for the next hour. I’ve got a foundation meeting that’s happening, stick with me and I’ll give you a ton of things to do.” Be careful what you ask for! I’m glad that I did because it was an extraordinary opportunity to help, and he and I have spoken five times since.

The lesson: No matter who somebody is, you can find a way to contribute.

What has been your most unique, audacious, and generous offer of help, and how was it received?

PS: I told this story on last week’s Social Capitalist call with Reid Hoffman. If you haven’t already, download the MP3 and transcript here!


Tim Pfeiffer's picture

Keith, Your thoughts certainly do resonate and are much appreciated. Ten years ago, I brought my business team together and wrote "Make A Difference" on the whiteboard. We spoke about what it meant to us individually, as a team and as business and community leaders. As easy as it is to erase a whiteboard, both it and the original message survive today. Always leave the place (and the relationship) better than you found it. How can I help?

Gene's picture

Keith, yet another outstanding post. I love reading these right away in the morning -- as they help to start my day strong. As a business leader, constantly feeding your mind is (in my experience) paramount to success. Your blogs are a must read for me.

thank you -- keep up the great work.

John Poe's picture

I volunteer with the Boy Scout program. However, the most wonderful offer I heard of is outlined in a Hallmark movie "A Smile As Big as the Moon". It's about the teacher who took the first class of special needs students to "Space Camp" which was normally reserved advanced placement students. It shows that when you're dealing with exceptional situations how people are willing to help.

John Poe.

Nguyen Quang Huan's picture

Keith, that is good experiences in ping ping networks.When you are confident, you can make a firend with other people, either they belong to up or down classes.

We can apply that even in Vietnam.


Uever kelvin's picture

I just love your write up. There are some people who are this world to add value to it, there are others that just don't know what to do with that wich they are endowed with on the other hand there are. Those who are not even aware of the resources that they are created or born with at all.

All we need to do is to make use of the content and try by all means we can to recycle the containers for the containers are a source of rooted advocacy for a better cause to the world.

Remember, for the fact that they are where they are today, it is good for continuity of community work.

Carlos Montes's picture

Well, me and my girlfriend have been togheter for more than 5 years and after a while the gifts are a kind of problem. So, sometimes you have to use your imagination. My girfriend, for example, gave me for my birthday a personalized song that she made by herself (and the help of It was a special and personal gift and I love it.

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