Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

Reading Time: 2 minutes


This book reshaped my understanding of what drives success. With an engaging body of research, Wharton professor Adam Grant demonstrates how, combined with motivation, ability, and opportunity, being a giver in our attitudes and actions towards others can fuel our long-term personal and career success.

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Key Takeaways

Giving as a new pillar of success

There are three traditional pillars of success: motivation, ability, and opportunity. However, there is a fourth pillar that determines who is successful and who is not: our interactions with others.

In fact, those who are giving in their interactions with others are more likely to be successful.

Givers, takers, and matchers

There are three different reciprocity styles:

Takers: Takers are interested in getting more than they give. They typically see the world as a hyper-competitive place and will look out for themselves first.

Givers: Givers tilt the their reciprocity in the direction of other people. They are giving and generous as a way of being, rather than to get something specific from their actions.

Matchers: Matchers live by the tit for tat policy. I scratch your back, you scratch mine.

These differences between people are about their attitudes and actions towards others, not about their personal beliefs about charity or their desired salaries. It’s also important to remember that reciprocity styles exist on a spectrum. A person could be a taker when it comes to their salary, a giver in mentoring a new employee, and a matcher in sharing their expertise with a colleague.

Giving pays off in the long-term

When you are a giver in your interactions with others, it pays off in the long-term. As a giver, you will build a better reputation and a broader set of relationships over time. With strong relationships and a solid reputation, you’ll be introduced to good opportunities that you would not otherwise have had you spent your personal or professional life in the mindset of a taker or a matcher.

Asking for advice

Asking for advice is an effective way to interact with others and increase your influence, especially when you are coming from a subordinate position. In asking for advice, you express vulnerability, encourage the other person to take our perspective, learn, and demonstrate commitment. Further, we typically like people who we give advice to due to our natural need to self-justify the time and energy we spent giving advice to a person.

Increasing your happiness

When you see the impact of your work and give back, it helps reduce stress. If you’re thinking about doing more volunteering in your life, consider following the rule of 100: volunteering for 2 hours a week (roughly 100 hours a year) will increase your level of happiness.

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