What’s unique about the success of givers

In this book, I want to persuade you that we underestimate the success of givers like David Hornik. Although we often stereotype givers as chumps and doormats, they turn out to be surprisingly successful. To figure out why givers dominate the top of the success ladder, we’ll examine startling studies and stories that illuminate how giving can be more powerful – and less dangerous – than most people believe. Along the way, I’ll introduce you to successful givers from many different walks of life, including consultants, lawyers, doctors, engineers, salespeople, writers, entrepreneurs, accountants, teachers, financial advisors, and sports executives. These givers reverse the popular plan of succeeding first and giving back later, raising the possibility that those who give first are often best positioned for success later.

But we can’t forget about those engineers and salespeople at the bottom of the ladder. Some givers do become pushovers and doormats, and I want to explore what separates the champs from the chumps. The answer is less about raw talent or aptitude, and more about the strategies givers use and the choices they make. To explain how givers avoid the bottom of the success ladder, I’m going to debunk two common myths about givers by showing you that they’re not necessarily nice, and they’re not necessarily altruistic. Successful givers recognize that there’s a big difference between taking and receiving. Taking is using other people solely for one’s own gain. Receiving is accepting help from others while maintaining a willingness to pay it back and forward. We all have goals for our own individual achievements and it turns out that the givers who excel are willing to ask for help when they need it. Successful givers are every bit as ambitious as takers and matchers. They simply have a different way of pursuing their goals.

This brings us to my third aim, which is to reveal what’s unique about the success of givers. Let me be clear that 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 like David Hornik 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. As the venture capitalist Randy Komisar remarks, “It’s easier to win if everybody wants you to win. If you don’t make enemies out there, it’s easier to succeed.” 

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