There's no doubt in my mind that Adam Grant's book is one of the best I've read last year. It's the kind of book anyone paying attention to its own personal development should read. Reading this book, reconfirmed me the old saying that "what goes around comes around".
As any professional I have done some reading on the theory of success and many times I found it close connected with drivers such as passion, hard work, talent, and luck. On the other hand, I did have clear evidence in my life that success depends a lot on how we interact with others.
I've been raised in a family where giving to others has always been a constant, an unwritten rule of the house, if I call it so. I never questioned its value or validity. I have just done my best to live by it as it always felt true to my inner-self. This is probably one of the reasons why one of the things that surprised me the most in Adam Grant's book was the amount of ground-breaking research demonstrating how giving more to others rather than competing against them is the key to a much more profound success and personal fulfillment.
The main idea
Everybody has governing style of either giving, taking or matching, each one of them having its won specific particularities. Yet, the truth is we cannot act 100% and all the time as givers, takers or matchers. We adapt our behavior to suit specific people. It is part of our nature to respond to the social pressure and to conform to what we believe is expected of us in a group situation. As Grant says, even takers display a more generous behavior when in public circumstances. In addition, we are more likely to give to those who seem like us and brings convincing proof. To conclude, how much we give or take is shaped by who we interact with.
Givers, takers and matchers
Givers are driven by the desire to help others and create meaningful success for those around them whether they may be colleagues, friends, relatives or the community they live in. They often achieve the top positions in society because they focus on the greater good, not on the personal selfish wins. Claiming their personal credit for the work they do is not their main concern instead they rather inspire inspire, collaborate, encourage and support, sometimes even putting themselves at the risk of burning out or exhaustion. They have an incredible talent of cultivating and using their networks to benefit others as well as themselves. Givers look for and see the potential in each person they meet, so they are champions of finding and nurturing talent.
There are many examples of great givers, but there are few examples that really touched me — George Meyer, (Emmy Award-winng writer for The Simpson), David Hornik (investor at August Capital, the author of VentureBlog, & the executive producer of The Lobby Conference), Adam Rifkin (Fortune's Magazine's 2011 best networker and co-founder 106 Miles network) or C. J. Skender (an award-winning accounting professor teaching at both rival universities, Duke and North Caroline), Stu Inman (basketball player and coach of Blazers) or Conrey Callahan (Teach for America professor). I shall not reveal more on the reasons why these stories touched a deep chord in my heart, but let you find on your own.
Takers are self-centered and only focused on what benefits they can get from others. On the short run they may get high up in the social or business hierarchy, but when persisting in such behavior they loose respect and damage their reputation. Their behavior is grounded in the personal belief that the world is a competitive place, therefore to be successful you must take whatever you want. To them helping other is fine as long the personal benefit of doing so outweighs the cost. Flattering influential people, frequently using words such as "I" and "mine" rather than "we" or "ours", tendency to be domineering, using forceful language to persuade others are all characteristics by which you'll recognize a taker.
Matchers are somewhere in between givers and takers, as they strive for equal, fair exchanges with others. You can recognize them for their tit-for-tat mentality. To them the world is a playground where people exchange knowledge, skills and resources equally. When helping others, they expect reciprocation otherwise they will feel disgruntled.
Ideas I found fascinating
Of course this book is more than just about distinguishing between givers, takers and matchers. There are plenty of great ideas and advices and mostly probably every reader has its own favorites . Personally, there are some ideas in particular I resonated well with or found fascinating, so here there are:
- the five-minute favor rule governing Adam Rifkin's giving
- dormant ties and how their advice can add more value than the advice from current ties
- the power of powerless communication
- the value of vulnerability
- dominance versus prestige, the two path of building influence
- advices on avoiding burnout — it gave me the answer to a questions such as "how come you are not tired" or "where does this energy come from")
- the reciprocity ring
Personal favorite quotes
- "Successful givers are every bit as ambitious as takers and matchers. They simply have a different way of pursuing their goals."
- "success depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people."
- "the worst performers and the best performers are givers; takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle."
- "giving has an energizing effect only if it's an enjoyable, meaningful choice rather than undertaken out of duty and obligation."
- "receiving is accepting help from others while maintaining a willingness to pay it back and forward."
- "advice seeking is a surprisingly effective strategy for exercising influence when we lack authority."
An unexpected personal outcome
I had friends, colleagues and even people who entered my life for just brief moments, encouraging me for years to start writing about the things I experienced in my professional or personal life. I did know even then that others might find useful reading about these experiences. I even promised almost two years ago to my colleagues and friends at Grapefruit, that I would start writing. It did not happen. What I did not know then, but I do know, is that I needed some kind of push, drive or call it as you like... that's something I felt strongly when reading Give and Take, so thank you Adam Grant!