Reading Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam Grant, has shifted how I look at success on both a personal and professional level.
When I was a child, my family didn’t know many people who were terribly successful or who had money for vacations or nice things. And the few we did know, my parents didn’t think very highly of.
As a result, I internalized a message that being successful meant being a person who wasn’t nice. Since I didn’t want to be that kind of person, I set myself the goal of not making more money than my parents.
I’ve since grown beyond this self-imposed limitation, but finding a different way to define success has been a struggle.
Until I read Give and Take by Adam Grant.
Most of the examples of success that we see in the media — and in our daily lives as well — involve the “Takers” way of success:
Takers believe that the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog place. They feel that to succeed, they need to be better than others. To prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. Garden-variety takers aren’t cruel or cutthroat; they’re just cautious and self-protective. “If I don’t look out for myself first,” takers think, “no one will.”
But there are other approaches to success.
Givers, in contrast, will
help whenever the benefits to others exceed the personal costs. Alternatively, [givers ]might not think about the personal costs at all, helping others without expecting anything in return. If you’re a giver at work, you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them.
When Adam set out to do his research, he expected that everyone would fit into one of these two categories. However, what he discovered is that most people are actually Matchers:
[Matchers strive] to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships are governed by even exchanges of favors.
How do these different ways of looking at the world correlate with success?
After creating as assessment that determined people’s primary reciprocity style, Adam looked at their level of success.
What he found surprised him.
Yes, the givers were at the bottom of the success ladder, as he suspected, since givers often sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.
But Adam also discovered that across occupations, givers made up the top rung of the success ladder, with takers and matchers always falling into the middle.
Givers, takers, and matchers all can— and do— achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when [givers] win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.
The book contains numerous examples of giver success that demonstrate how to create personal success that results in lifting others up, rather than pushing them down. Sharing these stories is important because most givers don’t seek acknowledgement for their success, or their contribution to success. As a result, we often only see the matchers and takers standing up taking credit for what was actually more of a group effort.
Without examples of giver success, givers grow up thinking, as I did, that to be successful requires you to be someone other than who you are. Given this choice, most givers choose the path in life that keeps them far away from personal success because this is far more comfortable.
This is a ground breaking book.
This book is ground-breaking, not so much because Adam makes the point to takers and matchers that they would be more successful if they employed more giver strategies, but because it stands as an example to the many givers in the world who are holding themselves back from success for fear of becoming takers. When givers succeed, they lift others up. Encouraging more givers to be successful, then, increases success for all.
I know for me, in the future when I look back on my life, reading this book will stand as one of the biggest turning points in my life. I am grateful to the client who recommended that I read it, and to Adam for writing it. My life will never be the same.
How about you? Are you a giver, matcher, or taker? Take the free assessment and find out. And then, whatever type you are, make the time to read Give and Take. It just might change how you define success forever.