Could giving be the key to success? Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success suggests there is some real power to the old maxim that it’s better to give than to receive. He starts the book by presenting evidence that givers dominate both the top and bottom of the success ladder, and explains that his motivation in writing the book is to “demonstrate that success doesn’t have to come at someone else’s expense.”
Much of the book contrasts the style of givers with two other groups–“takers” and “matchers”. Takers are fairly self-explanatory; matchers refer to people who are motivated by a sense of fairness, and seek to have their giving reciprocated by people they help.
I finished this book a few weeks ago and am just now getting to blog about it. Fortunately, I read the digital version of the book and highlighted 63 excerpts to quickly jog my memory about insights I wanted to share from it. Below I’ve summarized three insights that stood out for me, in addition to the general point that giving can contribute to our own success. The book is full with insights on professional relationships, social networks and success; so I encourage you to give the book a read for yourself. In addition, you can check out Adam Grant’s website for additional resources on the subject, including an interesting self-assessment tool.
Our networks are strengthened through giving. A giving approach is a powerful way to strengthen our social networks. I had some appreciation for this concept prior to reading the book, but Grant provides interesting detail on how this plays out. For instance, he talks about how “dormant ties”, people we haven’t been in touch with for awhile, are an important source of new ideas and information. This point is consistent with Mark Granovetter’s classic work on the “Strength of Weak Ties” which explained that we are more likely to get job referrals and other resources from people whom we don’t know especially well, who can help us tap into new networks and information. Those close to us, on the other hand, tend to have information similar to what we already know.
Grant presents entrepreneur Adam Rifkin as a compelling example of how a giving approach can lead to success. Rifkin’s giving approach helped get him important leads early and his career, and now he is very intentional about cultivating a network of givers through regular entrepreneur networking events he facilitates. His real aim is to “change our fundamental ideas about how we build our networks and who should benefit from them.
Givers help create strong teams: People who are giving help make teams successful. Grant notes that engineers who freely share ideas without expecting anything back are key drivers in innovation. He also states “Givers are more likely to see interdependence as a source of strength.”
How we give is important. Seeking to explain research that shows givers rank at both the top and bottom in terms of success, Grant explains how we approach giving is important. He notes that “when people give continually without concern for their own well-being, they’re at risk for poor mental and physical health.” There seems to be a sweet spot for giving. For instance, one Australian study found those volunteering between 100 and 800 hours per year were the happiest; those under or over had worse outcomes. It’s not just about the amount of hours, but the approach. Grant says that those practicing “otherish giving” reap the best results. Otherish givers aren’t giving selflessly; rather, they understand and seek to fulfill their own needs while giving. Throughout the book, Grant provides many practical suggestions as to how people can practice otherish giving that helps others while contributing to their own success.
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