11 Jun The Trust & Give Method for Doing Authentic Business: Lessons from the Greeks
I travel for a lot of reasons.
My favorite reason is not knowing. Not knowing the people, stories or ideas that might come, but being certain of one thing – that I’ll be surprised.
The last three weeks I spent exploring Greece didn’t disappoint.
It was as if every local we met was running off the same unspoken rule – to trust and give.
And since it happens to be the same rule we talked about last week, today I thought I’d share a few personal experiences from our travels to give you a feel for how refreshing it is to be on the receiving end of things.
Imagine if the rest of the world showed up the way these people do…
Lessons on Trust, Generosity and Connecting – Greek Style
Yiannis, the owner of the cafe below our apartment in Paros, offered to give us the local’s tour of the island during his day off – even though he works full-time by day and runs his bar six nights a week, often closing after 2am. (His boat-themed bar was by far the coolest we saw all trip. It’s a must if you’re ever in Paroikia town). The guys’s smile is contagious – see above picture.
A fisherman had just come out of the water with a haul of fresh octopus and sea urchin. I asked a few questions and took some photos as he cleaned his catch. “You like seafood?” he proudly asked, as he handed me the freshest whole sea urchin I’ll surely ever try.
When George, the baker down the street, couldn’t make change for the 20 Euro bill we used to pay for our breakfast, he just gave us the bag of warm pastries and told us to come back and pay some other time.
George also introduced us to Cameron, a U.S. expat and local art teacher, who offered to take us on some of his favorite undiscovered hiking trails around the island and invited us to his art show the following night. When we saw him at the art show, he continued the hospitality by inviting us over to his house in the countryside for dinner.
The cashier at a small corner market saw us examining a large jug of colorless liquid behind the counter. Without asking, he poured us each large shots of his homemade raki (aka Greek firewater). Then we all toasted over the cash register. The stuff wasn’t even for sale. And it was barely noon. Unsolicited free booze offers were more frequent than you’d think.
One morning, we realized we were a day off in our apartment booking, causing us to have to move out in 15 minutes instead of the next day. Penelope, the mother of the apartment owner, gave no more than two seconds of thought before demanding, “You must stay in my guest house tonight, free of charge. I insist. We have to fix this. You must have a home.” The energy in her voice made me think she was happy for the mishap. Almost as if she’d just been waiting for a reason to extend an invite.
We told the owner of a wine bar in Crete that we’d just be having a glass of wine, but not any food. His response: “Well then, I’ll bring you some fruits on the house.”
Simos, the owner of our apartment in Hania, picked us up from our delayed bus arrival at midnight. During the drive home, he told us about the physics exam he had at 8am the next morning. Then he finished our apartment tour by giving us one of his cell phones for “whatever you might need during your stay.” He texted us each day to see how he could help.
On a morning walk towards the old harbor in Hania, Chelsea and I poked into a taverna, curious to know about the sign out front that read “vegan and vegetarian biofood.” Within 30 seconds of our questioning, a gray-haired old man slightly resembling Santa Claus (but even more jolly) pulled us into his kitchen to give us a proper answer. Stelios then dipped a wooden spoon into every warm pot and dish he had prepared that morning, giving us enough samples to easily cover a hearty meal. After a short private lecture on cooking with love (instead of recipes), he sent us on our way, never pushing for us to sit down and order.
Later that afternoon, we came back for lunch. When the bill came, we found out they didn’t take credit cards and we were all out of cash. Stelios didn’t even pause. He just smiled and said to come back to pay before we left town. We returned three more times. (His food was like nothing we’d tasted all trip – Stachi is a must if you’re ever in Hania, Crete.)
After buying a few bowls from a family’s pottery shop, the father told us to go pick out one more piece, as his gift to us. It wasn’t part of some deal or sales pitch. We had already made our purchase and hadn’t asked for anything special. He just figured, why not?
Near the end of a late dinner around 1am, our waiter introduced us to a Greek man who had lived in California for two years. He spent the next 20 minutes drawing us napkin maps of the town and island and explaining his favorite restaurants and beaches, mentioning multiple times how it was best to explore the island by car. That’s right about when he said we were welcome to borrow his ride anytime during our stay. He wrote down his email and cell and took off.
Chelsea and I joked about his offer, knowing he couldn’t be serious (who would ever lend their car to two foreigners he met at a late-night restaurant/night club??) … until we ran into him again the next day, and he reminded us that his free rental car offer still stood.
And this is just a taste. I could go on and on.
No drink was served without some free food to go with it. Every dinner was followed by dessert and nightcaps – all on the house. They didn’t even try to upsell us.
Every day someone surprised us with the kind of trust, generosity and hospitality that I’m used to experiencing as the exception, not the rule.
They weren’t doing it to sell us. In many cases, there was no transaction involved at all. There was no mention of money, and when we insisted on compensation, some even seemed to take offense.
For them it was as if they couldn’t help but share a little bit of who they were. Their pride and confidence in the value they had to offer led them to consistently and excitedly offer whatever help and experiences they could provide.
And this is exactly what last week’s post on connecting through giving and helping was all about. I’d never seen so many real examples in one place until I started hanging around some new Greek friends.
That’s what was so surprising.
It’s refreshing to spend time with someone living this way. The trust creates trust. The generosity makes me want to give.
And of course, it made me like them. It made me want to be around them. It made me want to support their cause and tell others about their work.
It also made me want to live a bit more in the same way.
And that’s what keeps me traveling.
JudithPosted at 10:30h, 12 June
WOW….ABSOLTELY (yes I’m shouting) FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE … it nearly brought me to tears of joy…. we need more of trust joy in our daily moments… a reminder that no-one is ever too busy to make someone else’ s experience a happy one…unexpected joy…. sheer joy…..
thanks for sharing.!
ScottPosted at 14:16h, 15 June
Wow tears?! Glad they’re happy ones 🙂
Yoni BinstockPosted at 10:37h, 12 June
Love this article Scot. My wife and I are hoping to sail the Greek islands sometime this year and your adventures out there keep our feet to the fire.
Thanks for sharing and best travels,
JacquePosted at 11:13h, 12 June
I have been giving this very thing a lot of thought lately. You said that this is the kind of hospitality you are used to experiencing as the exception and not the norm. And you have traveled extensively, and experienced many different types of businesses. What do you think it is about that culture? Why are they able to give so authentically?
To me, these have always seemed the simplest business rules that an organization big or small can follow to make a huge difference for customers, but you rarely find any of this or anything like it in the States. Why is that, and how do we cultivate and spread it? This is not a management/training kind of thing. This is a live it, believe it, don’t even have to think about it, automatic thing. Is it possible to spread it around the world. Very curious to hear your thoughts.
ScottPosted at 14:19h, 15 June
It’s a big question and I certainly don’t have the full answer Jacque. Part of why we probably don’t see it as much in business is that in the states we get so focused on the black and white measurable things that we forget to give attention to the very important intangibles that can be pretty tough to measure. That’s why the trip made for such a good reminder. Also I’ve certainly experienced heightened hospitality in many of the other countries I’ve been in, but something about Greece just felt more a part of the everyday life. Can’t put my finger on it but so glad to have experienced it!
Jane Duncan RogersPosted at 11:26h, 12 June
Very lovely story, thank you! These people are working in the Gift Economy whether they know it or not – and if you don’t know about it, it’s incredibly inspiring, with lots of pockets of people all over the world living and working in the Gift. Here’s a great blog post about it: http://adrianhoppel.com/this-is-what-it-looks-like-when-you-realize-how-toxic-your-job-is-and-you-do-something-about-it/
ScottPosted at 14:20h, 15 June
Love that concept. Will have to check it out a bit more Jane. Thanks!
Evangelia LeclairePosted at 11:38h, 12 June
Scott, I’m so happy that you’re raising awareness to how hospitable, authentic the Greek islanders are. My family is from the island of Crete and its my “home” away from home. Glad you enjoyed your stay! Also, the Greeks have a word – filoxenia which literally translates to “the love of strangers.” There is more to it than that: http://greekfood.about.com/od/discovergreekfood/a/filoxenia.htm
ScottPosted at 14:21h, 15 June
Oh my god – best word ever! That explains a lot. And we LOVED your island!
KathyPosted at 11:39h, 12 June
That’s awesome. Greece was one of my favorite places and it has been many, many years since I’ve been there. You made me want to go now. I love that you shared your stories about the boat and cooking lessons. They both sound great. That is how I remember my time in Greece … very free. Life has so many things to offer us if we are willing to embrace them!
DavisPosted at 11:52h, 12 June
Looks like I’m going to Greece pretty soon. 😉
P.S. I am not sure if you’ve read Give and Take, but you would love it.
Mike GoncalvesPosted at 12:00h, 12 June
Wow! What awesome experiences and stories, thanks for sharing them with us. The generosity of these folks you’ve mentioned is incredible. I wasn’t even there and the one who experienced it although it gave me an awesome feeling just reading it. As the late Maya so well stated, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Thanks Scott.
ScottPosted at 14:27h, 15 June
Love that quote Mike. And I’m realizing I really should have included more pictures of these people in the posts. Makes you really feel the love!
AngiePosted at 12:50h, 12 June
This is the beauty of humanity and simply what we are designed to do. We all belong to each other, and the Grecians pave the path to revolutionizing the giving heart. What captivating stories. Imagine the newest generation being raised on the foundation of consistently giving. That’s some food for thought. Congrats Scott on the amazing trip. Keep traveling and keep culturing us with your stories
ScottPosted at 14:27h, 15 June
It would make for an incredible place indeed Angie!
Jeff FirminPosted at 13:43h, 12 June
Love this post! Those connections will live longer in the memory than probably anything else you experience whilst travelling. As for why the Greeks are so giving, I think it must have something to do with the fact that their economy relies heavily on tourism. Over the generations their culture has developed into a genuinely, very welcoming one where tourists and valued. Such an experience is a rare thing in the UK, even in many places that rely on tourism. We seem to hold jobs in the hospitality trades in low regard, primarily because we dislike being seen as someone who is serving someone else. Maybe it has something to do with the class system that used to exist in the UK. You either had money or you didn’t. If you didn’t, then you often worked for those that did and so serving staff were of low stature. Maybe that image still holds today. Shame really.
Thanks again for the post, Scott. Where to next?
ScottPosted at 14:31h, 15 June
The funny thing is that all life and business really is serving the people you care about. As for the next adventure, hmmm. My dad was mentioning that the fly fishing in Iceland is supposed to be pretty good – odd sounding I know, but that’s our favorite father son activity. As for what’s on the books, Australia in October to speak at the RYPL conference – and plenty of little adventures between now and then.
gregoryPosted at 15:19h, 12 June
Its no surprise that Greece is one of the top 3 countries in the world.
ConstantinosPosted at 16:00h, 12 June
Working as a teacher in different places around Greece, I find such experiences usual and I always welcome them with joy. Even in a era of ethical and economic crisis, people in Greece stay authentic and true!
ScottPosted at 14:32h, 15 June
Love hearing the confirmation from some of you locals! So fun to hear about our community out in Greece. Wish we could have connected out there!
JeremyPosted at 19:58h, 12 June
Brilliant! We can always build trust from the little everyday kind acts. It’s from the bottom up that we are eventually able to risk our lives for others. All this reminds me a lot about Simon Sinek’s teachings.
It’s so heartwarming to read about all your pleasant encounters!
ScottPosted at 14:33h, 15 June
Yeah Simon does nail it with his Officers Eat Last concept. So powerful.
Evangelia LeclairePosted at 21:15h, 12 June
the cretan and greek hospitality comes from our passion and pride for our culture and our history, our food, flora, music, dance, agriculture, wine, raki, beaches, etc. passion is contagious and infectious and we love to spread it. my aunt and friends father both talk to me for hours about their flowers and their fruit trees. its innate to share the things you love within the good company of family, friends and likable strangers. i dont believe there is another language in this world to describe ‘philoxenia’ (aka hospitality and ‘love of strangers’). another thing – crete and many of the greek islands do need tourism to survive. they take it very seriously. there are ‘tourist police’ which any tourist, and/or any vendor or merchant can contact to report unethical and illegitimate business practices, or practices that may impact the high standards put in place in how tourist are treated. In example, a cab company that the hotel called for me refused to pick me up because i had two pieces of luggage and only wanted to be taken to another location, just a few blocks away. the hotel rep was livid with the cab driver and was threatening to call the ‘tourist police’ on him. she was so concerned with leaving me with a positive and lasting impression of the hotel, and of crete. mind you – my mother is from Crete and i frequently return, so she didnt have to be that concerned. She genuinely cared.
ScottPosted at 14:36h, 15 June
Love that there is a tourist police. Interesting to think what would happen if we all had similar rules around the way we treat people. Sure, they’re unwritten as is, but wild to think about them being more official rules. Fascinating way to set things up…
AnnaPosted at 01:44h, 13 June
What beautiful post, you just can’t stop but smile. So they are real, those magical creatures we thought died long time ago. Those…nice, generous, caring people.
Scott have you ever thought you also get back what you give? Dare to doubt if someone turned up grumpy faced and sarcastic they’d get same response as smiley, curious about others, warmth emanating couple like you & Chelsea.
ScottPosted at 14:39h, 15 June
Well I think showing up excited to meet folks certainly helps. And that is exactly how we roll – one of our favorite parts about travel. We can help induce this stuff for sure and that is definitely all of our role, if we decide to take it on (and I hope you will!). That’s why I always frame up the Connect with Anyone concept as looking at people as friends you haven’t met yet. Dramatically changes the way you show up.
The Trust & Give Method for Doing Authentic Business: Lessons from the Greeks | γνωσοσυλλέκτηςPosted at 01:47h, 13 June
[…] 14Comments […]
Theodore (Teo Kark)Posted at 07:29h, 13 June
Scott this is really one of the articles I’m gonna remember for as long as I live..
Although I am a Greek, and I really experience these things daily indeed, many of us have taken those for granted. That openess, tha generosity and that trust. Passion is surely one thing u got because u are living too so much in your life.
I’d really love to translate this post and post it on my greek site (neuroselfmastery.com – about self and life mastery) -with all the credits ofcourse etc-, just to remind some of my people what our culture is all about. And why not, to promote your work that I really believe in.
Anyway, I really love your work, courses and what all of your philosophy is about. Thanks for everything you’ve done for us 🙂
ScottPosted at 14:40h, 15 June
Very cool Teo – would be honored to have you translate to Greek! Come back and leave a link to it in the comments. Thanks for the support!
JenPosted at 09:04h, 13 June
Thanks for sharing! 🙂 It’s incredibly inspiring to hear about so many selfless acts of kindness from strangers. Makes me want to try harder to infuse some of that kindness into my own life and actions.
ScottPosted at 14:41h, 15 June
Agree Jen – and the fun thing is that it really doesn’t take that much trying. The key is just remembering to show up with that mindset/approach. Then the rest starts to fall into place. Let us know how it goes!
SedaSDPosted at 13:19h, 13 June
This is a great post. However, as I see it, the reasons why 80% of people don’t care about their jobs, why Greek economy tumbled so badly, why Greek islands and such similar places around the world (where the modern economy and definitions of monetary and business success haven’t touched as much) will wow and surprise tourists is part of the same problem.
Until and unless there are fundamental changes in perception and definition of “life”, “success”, “money”, and economies of countries are not built on marginal improvements of perceived quality of life (i.e.Iphone6 vs. Iphone5 vs. IPhone4) but built on real values that matters for a good life (clean water, quality food, health, family, connection, fulfilling/meaningful work, real education), we will be lingering where we are for a long time.
ScottPosted at 14:44h, 15 June
I certainly agree with the challenges of those societal definitions. So much of the misdirection, problems, unhappiness and frustration starts there. It’s refreshing to come across a group of people operating under a different set of assumptions. It’s not perfect either, but eye opening none the less and plenty to learn from them.
Steve RoyPosted at 19:17h, 16 June
Loving this Scott,
I’ve never been to Greece but will surely add that to my list. I traveled throughout my 20’s for the thrill of the unknown as well. I love meeting new people, making new friends, and having new experiences.
Your trip sounds amazing and I can see how their hospitality and generosity can affect your desire to do the same..
shannonPosted at 14:46h, 20 June
wow. inspirational people. Thanks for the awesome post.
ChantalPosted at 18:10h, 22 June
It sounds like a fabulous trip, and it’s clear that the Greeks weren’t afraid to ‘pay out’ by inviting you to experience their lives, culture and ideas. It’s a lesson I learned while travelling as well..there is really no reason to restrict the things we can share with the world, whether it’s trust, money, booze, our home or a smile! 🙂