Give and Take (Adam Grant)

Conventional wisdom states that success is due to a person’s motivations, abilities, and opportunities. However, the book’s main thesis is that success is largely due to how a person interacts with others.

There are three ways to interact. As a Giver, a Taker, or a Matcher. Givers give more value to others at a personal cost. Takers focus on gaining for self over others. Matchers are the karma police, they give when they receive and they take when they are taken from.

When it comes to career success, those found to have the least success, not surprisingly, are givers. Those found to have the most success, surprisingly, were also givers.

There are two types of givers: chump givers (least successful) and champ givers (most successful).

Champ givers get passed over early but they get recognized in the end. Takers on the other hand, benefit at the onset, but they get undermined eventually by matchers. Matchers, boost the givers, and undermine the takers.

Champ givers are like the sun that inject light to others. When they win, the success of everyone around them in enhanced. Takers ensure everybody loses when they win. They are black holes who sap energy from the environment they are in. Takers rise by kissing up, but they fall by kicking down.

Champ givers create psychological safety for groups they are in. A group with higher psychological safety learns more and innovates more. A group with low psychological safety learns to hide mistakes. Takers have responsibility bias – they have an exaggerated view of their contributions because they lack the empathy to understand what others are doing.

Chump givers risk being taken advantage of by takers because they are by default, too trusting, too empathetic, and too timid.

To move from chump to champ:

  1. Do not be too trusting. By default, trust and be a giver. If other person shows taker character, switch to being a matcher. Apply generous tit-for-tat. Give one, match twice, repeat. Or avoid the taker altogether.
  2. Do not be too empathetic: Focus on how the other person thinks, not how they will feel if you don’t help. Takers take advantage by playing the emotions card which givers are very susceptible to. By focusing on how the other person thinks, givers can be more logical in interacting.
  3. Do not be too timid: Think of yourself as an advocate for others. You are fighting their battles for them, not for you. Asking for soemthing in behalf of people you represent, will be less uncomofrtable versus asking for something for yourself.

Champ givers want to help others. But they are personally ambitious as well and have personal goals. By taking care of themselves, they are able to help others over a longer period of time. So their contributions, over time, will be bigger than chump givers who gave selflessly. Chump givers are prone to burn-out. They give selflessly and exhaust themselves – until they have nothing left to give.

The giver’s way of life: Show up, work hard, be kind, and take the high ground.

Adam Grant