Give and Take by Adam Grant

Nice guys finish last.

I believed in this cliché my entire life. I could probably think of at least a dozen examples in my life where I saw a self-centered person hired, promoted, or in some way rewarded while I (or someone I know) is ignored, passed by, or even punished. In those moments, it can be completely debilitating. That’s why the “nice guys finish last” cliché is so powerful. It feels so true.

However, there’s a difference between something feeling true and something being true.

In Adam Grant’s Give and Take, he identifies three types of people: givers, matchers, and takers. Givers are the selfless ones. Matchers are the quid pro quo group, and takers are the selfish ones. Conventional wisdom tells us takers get ahead, but in Grant’s research, givers rise to the top more frequently.

As I read this book I was kind of in disbelief the whole time, but page after page, Grant hit me with more evidence. I definitely think of myself as a giver (though I know I’m not perfect, I’m sure I have regretfully done some matching and taking in my life) and if you look at my life right now I don’t think anyone would identify me as losing. Perhaps then I am evidence that over time givers rise to the tops as takers are exposed and matchers ignored.

This book is a case for giving: who gives, how to give, and where it takes us. There is one caveat to all this: it has to be authentic. Giving to get ahead is matching, not giving. People can see right through that.

I feared this book would be a “cover spoiler” which I define as a book where the title or cover gives you all the information you really need and the entire book just repeats itself over and over again 200+ pages, but this book is full of wisdom and insights. I think this book is a great investment for leaders young and old.

Here’s a great excerpt from the end of the book that wraps it up neatly: “We spend the majority of our waking hours at work. This means that what we do at work becomes a fundamental part of who we are. If we reserve giver values for our personal lives, what will be missing in our professional lives?”