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On Luck and Gratitude

There is a behavioral science testing tool called a “luck activation.” It goes like this: a test subject is asked to consider how luck has impacted their life. To prime these thoughts the subject is asked to imagine that there is an exact copy of themselves out there in the world. Same intelligence, same looks, same charm, same talents–but that person lives in a developing nation, and therefore lives a very different life. One of the neat things about luck activation is that a luck primed individual will consistently give more to charity when they have been primed as compared to an individual who has not been. Personally, I often reflect on a few lucky events that helped nudge Giving Docs towards being where it is as a company today.

Almost seven years ago I got very lucky when I attended a Startup Weekend event in Austin, TX. I had gone because I was interested in growing my legal practice in representing startups. I got lost and almost left, but I met Gavin Gillas on the street, and he guided me in and then stopped me from leaving a second time when I realized there weren’t any actual startups at the event.

Gavin also persuaded me to do a one minute pitch, and introduced me to Robert Guicewho became my teammate for the next 48 hours as we prepped for the real pitch competition. It was an incredibly fun and exciting weekend, and at the end we beat out 17 other teams to win first place. And that was how Giving Docs found its start.

The next incredibly lucky turn was when Giving Docs was invited to join the Startup Lab at Dan Ariely’s Center for Advanced Hindsight in 2017. It took a leap of faith to quit my job and move to North Carolina to join the program. Knowing that we were not the typical company to be invited, I kept my head down until my first meeting with Dan, where I asked why my estate planning company got into a program that seemed purpose built to help companies that worked in the finance and health arenas.

He told me that our company had the potential to have an impact greater than all of the other previous participants, and explained to me how from an economics standpoint moving small percentages of estates from inheritances to the non-profit sector could have profound effects on not just the charities but the world economy as a whole. More importantly though, he told me that people that created charitable estate plans not only gave more and volunteered more, but also were happier, more connected to society, and lived measurably richer lives. And that was how Giving Docs found its purpose.

The other “lucky” events that have led us to where we are now are too numerous to list here. As are the countless advisors, consultants, attorneys, scientists, non-profit professionals, and industry experts and luminaries who have contributed to this journey. It goes without saying that I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the unbelievable team, clients, and partners Giving Docs has today.

At this point it should be noted that I don’t strongly believe in luck as a fate determining factor in my life.Science suggests that doing so robs us of our agency and self-determination for events in our lives both good and bad. Rather, I engage with the concept of luck as a variation on gratitude or optimism, which has been scientifically shown to breed cooperation, connection, and hope, and have many other positive effects on a person’s life.

So I know you will all understand what I mean when I say that as I reflect back on where we’ve been, where we are today, and where Giving Docs is heading I just feel so lucky-and grateful- for all of it.


Brantley Boyett


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