The Blog

What is Learn, Earn, Give?

May 30, 2022

I was originally taught the idea of working hard, following the path laid out for me, and waiting until retirement to do the things that mattered to me on a personal level. But the learn, earn, give model taught me different ways to look at life. It helped to break the binds that were holding me back, and I was able to embrace a new path.

I propose that this model has the power to shape the way we think about youth and education, and empower young people from all backgrounds towards rich and full lives. 

So what is this model? I spend my book breaking each category down in detail, but here’s an overview! 



First, we focus on learning. But not in the way you’ve been taught to. Instead,  think BIGGER. To become lifelong learners, students (and all people!) need to adopt a growth mindset (one that is determined to see obstacles as opportunities, that doesn’t limit your ability to learn or grow), and a proactive approach towards learning. 

 In order to lean into learning in its richest and fullest form, there are some ideas that we need to unlearn. Specifically, the harmful and limiting idea that learning only happens in the formal classroom, that success is measured through one-size-fits-all testing, and that everyone enters a classroom or learning opportunity with the same needs. 

We must stop determining people’s futures based on their backgrounds and what was done before them, but instead on their passions, aptitudes, and values. As adults, this means rewriting the way we speak about learning – we must choose to model lifelong learning ourselves, intentionally get to know the young people in front of us as whole people, and champion their passions and pursuits. 



The Cambridge English Dictionary defines earning as “To receive money as payment for work you do; or to get something that you deserve because of your abilities or actions.” 

One of the best pieces of advice my father ever gave me was, “Son, love what you do for a living, because you’re going to do it for a very long time.”

Leaning into earning means letting poisonous entitlement go and committing to working hard to achieve your intentionally set goals. It means acknowledging from the onset that nothing will be handed to you, but that you are capable of achieving what you have set out to do. As students embrace this, they will face plenty of challenges and discouragement - in those moments, they need adults to come alongside them and remind them of their goals, values, and ability to succeed. 

The goal is not to get rich quick, or earn without setbacks. Our measure of success is much richer and more nuanced. Students will learn that true success comes with perseverance (a lesson that the world is quick to overlook and leave out of their curriculum). Supportive adults will play a vital role in teaching students to live with discouragement and challenges, rather than give up at the first sign of trouble. 

Some of the young people with whom you work will seek out their own opportunities for internships or earning, and some will need help. If you know the values and purpose of a young adult, look for internship opportunities for them, or ways in which they can earn both money and a sense of self-respect heading in the direction their aptitude is guiding them.



This final step in the model is the most counter cultural (and I know- the whole model is!).

In his book, Innovation Over Envy, Dan Sullivan writes, “If you choose to put your emphasis on helping others, you’ll be taken care of. You just have to choose not to make your life all about yourself.” Giving is about helping others, as well as helping myself. By giving, I can recognize how fortunate I am and grateful for my life. The gratitude I feel makes me want to share with others. Sometimes I give time or resources, sometimes monetary support, but whatever manner in which I give, I find it doesI do just as much good for myself as for the receiver. 

Giving enhances the life of both the receiver and the giver. When you give to others, it changes you to your very core. It changes how you think and how you feel about other people. Your desire to give will grow and grow. As you give you will change the lives of the recipients. 

There are so many ways to teach students to be generous - some examples include…

  • Giving personal gifts to loved ones
  • Volunteering
  • Mentoring
  • Charitable giving
  • Small acts of kindness
  • Friendship
  • Thank yous
  • Forgiveness

… and more! As an adult in their lives, you get to model generosity of heart to them and actively encourage them to live lives that look outside of themselves and towards others.  Could you gather a group of students to do a community project? Could you organize a food drive? Could you model writing thank yous to people? 

Kindness and giving start with small but consistent steps. Show your students how to do it by walking the walk with them.


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