Read This Book: Give and Take by Adam Grant
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Nice guys finish last.” and you have been lead to believe it. Adam Grant, a young professor (and highest-rated teacher) at Wharton, sheds an exceptional amount of light on the truths – and untruths – surrounding that notion.
In a world where success is defined by money and stature, and the ladder one must climb to reach such a status is often crowded and difficult, we’re told to do anything to get ahead. We all have at least one
douche-nozzle difficult individual in our lives who acts painfully selfish (if you don’t know anyone like that, take a moment to make sure it’s not you), and you often see these individuals rise to seemingly undeserving positions.
Here are four points from Give and Take that opened my eyes to the idea that perhaps it’s the more helpful amongst us, and not the difficult individuals mentioned above, that win at the end. Please note that my four points do not do the book justice – you really need to read it to get the full picture:
Three Types of People
Before reading the book I was already familiar with the concept of Givers and Takers. Givers tend to be other-focused, Takers tend to be
douche-nozzles selfish. I never really thought about a third type: Matchers. Matchers tend to reciprocate, which in my opinion is a good thing, but they won’t necessarily look for an opportunity to give. There lies the distinction: a Giver is someone who will proactively look for ways to be helpful. It’s an ideal for which we should all strive. (I plan on working on it once I master procrastination.)
Of the few things that grind my gears in the workplace, one of them is powerful communication. It’s when people feel the need to never display weakness. They can never be wrong, they’re quick to blame. They use words like, “right?” at the end of sentences to get you to agree with them as they march on in their opinion sharing. All in all, they tend to be
douche-nozzles difficult to work with.
It was refreshing to learn about Powerless Communication, which is when an individual speaks in a way that reveals human elements. One example in the book is about a powerful lawyer who had a stutter. Witnessing him struggle through public speaking during a case swayed the jury in his favor. They felt compassion, they felt like they could relate to him.
There are time when you need to be assertive and shine in confidence. At the same time, there are plenty of opportunities to act like a regular person and one should never feel the need to always put on their game face.
Burned Out? Work Harder.
Success does not actually have much to do with money and social status. The feeling of success comes from seeing the fruits of your labor and knowing that you, just one of billions of individuals on this planet, made a difference. As it turns out, often times we get burned out because we feel like we’re hamsters running on a wheel, putting in a ton of effort for little to no gain.
Professor Grant describes the phenomena of a young woman who tried her heart out at helping inner-city youth and, after some time, reached a breaking point. Rather than going on a vacation to relax and rejuvenate, she started a program to help even more people – on nights and weekends. You would think that if you’re burned out, you need to scale back – I know I thought that way – but as it turns out, if you’re burned out, you just need to find something to do that is meaningful enough that it will leave you feeling accomplished and energized, and realistic enough that you can fit it into your schedule.
You Just Need to Ask
People are afraid to ask for things they need, especially from employers. I don’t know if it’s a fear of rejection or a lack of assertiveness (remember, assertiveness does not necessarily make you a
douche-nozzle Taker) but we get shy when it comes to things we need (at least I do). Give and Take provides insight into two methods that can help you (me) get over that.
The first is inline with Powerless Communication. Ask someone for help, get them to relate to your issue and transform them into an advocate. Through proper communication (and you can read a better explanation of this in the book) you can bring out the Giver in others.
The second is becoming you’re own advocate. As it turns out, you’re more likely to feel comfortable asking for something on behalf of someone else than you are for yourself. If you can transform yourself into your own advocate, you might find the right words to say to get what you need.
There are over 250 pages in the book, which you can purchase here on Amazon and read about more here (including reviews). I only gave mention, lightly, to a few of the many topics covered in the book.
You can also watch this video of Professor Grant speaking at Google on many of the topics addressed in his book here:
A special mention to the Givers amongst us who proactively look to help others land jobs or find the love of their life – for no personal gain, other than the satisfaction of helping. And of course to the friend who handed me this book in the first place.