Book notes: Give and Take by Adam Grant

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, Ph.D. book summary.

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, Ph.D.


Synopsis: “For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others.

Praised by best-selling authors such as Dan Pink, Tony Hsieh, Dan Ariely, Susan Cain, Dan Gilbert, Gretchen Rubin, Bob Sutton, David Allen, Robert Cialdini, and Seth Godin – as well as senior leaders from Google, McKinsey, Merck, Estée Lauder, Nike, and NASA – Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

If I’m not mistaken, I picked this one up because it showed up on my recommended reads list. There were a lot of reviews and the average rating was pretty high, which is usually a good sign. I also thought the synopsis was pretty compelling with all of the big names that praised the ideas in the book. This may have been recommended in another book I read, or maybe not. I wish I could write notes in my Audible wish list so I could note where I heard of this book, haha.

Key notes:

  • Being a giver simply involves a focus on acting on the interests of others
  • Matchers try to balance out give-and-take and focus on even exchange
  • Those who get first are often best position for success later
  • Lincoln is seen as one of the least self-centered, Egotistical, boastful president ever. In the ranking of presidential biographies, Lincoln scored in the top three. In giving credit to others and acting in the best interest of others
  • Most of life is not zero sum, and on balance, people who choose giving as their primary reciprocity style end up reaping the rewards
  • Givers and matchers often see networking as an appealing way to connect with new people and ideas
  • Pronoia (like paranoia) is the delusional belief that other people are plotting your well-being
  • Geniuses tend to be takers to promote their own interests. They drain intelligence, energy, and capability from others
    • Genius-makers tend to be givers. They use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of other people such that lightbulb go off over peoples heads, ideas flow, and problems get solved
  • Givers take on the tasks that are in the groups best interest, not necessarily in their own self interest. This makes their groups better off
    •  Givers get extra credit from others when they offer ideas that challenge the status quo
  • The responsibility bias: exaggerating our own contributions relative to others inputs
    • This occurs because we have more information on our own contributions than others
  • People learn and innovate more in psychologically safe environments
  • Chapter 4: Finding the diamond in the rough – The fact and fiction of recognizing potential
  • There is a close connection between grit and giving
    • Because of their dedication to others, givers are willing to work harder and longer than takers and matchers
    • They continue to work hard out of a sense of responsibility to their team
  • Givers don’t excel only at recognizing and developing talent, they are also surprisingly good at moving on when their bets don’t work out
  • Powerless communicators tend to speak less certainly, expressing plenty of doubt and relying heavily on advice from other
    • Advice seeking is a surprisingly effective strategy for exercising influence when we lack authority
  • Successful givers are just as ambitious as takers and matchers
    • People are most successful when they are driven by a hybrid engine of the two Great forces of human nature: self interest and caring for others
  • Givers burn out when they are working with people in need, but are unable to help effectively
    • The more effective style of giving is chunking instead of sprinkling your acts of giving. Doing them all at once instead of throughout your week
  • Giving and helping others out of a sense of enjoyment and purpose results in the giver experiencing significant gains in energy
    • The more one gives, the better one feels. And the better one feels about it, the easier it becomes to give
  • Some studies show that giving actually seems to make people richer
  • The helpers high: Recent studies show that giving actually activates the reward and meaning centers in our brains, which send us pleasure and purpose signals when we act for the benefit of others
    • Giving adds meaning to our lives, distracts us from our own problems, and helps us feel valued by others
  • Givers safeguard themselves against burn out
    • Through giving, they build up reserves of happiness and meaning that takers and matchers are less able to access
  • Chapter 7: Chump Change. Overcoming the doormat effect
    • Givers need to find more strategic ways to keep giving efficiently and screening out spending time with takers
  • Our ability to prosper depends on developing enough comfort with a matching approach that it becomes second nature, even if a style like giving is our first nature
  • Empathy leads to helping, and a sense of oneness is a key reason why
  • The smarter negotiator appears to be able to understand his or her counterparts true interests, and thus can provide better deals for that person at little cost to him or her self
    • The more intelligent you are, the more you help your counterpart succeed
  • Being a taker at the negotiation table has good short-term benefits, but the long-term benefits suffer as your reputation gets ruined
  • Givers characterize success as individual achievements that have a positive impact on others
    • Successful givers get to the top without cutting others down. finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them
  • Action ideas:
    • The five-minute favor
    • Going through your social networks and connecting pairs of people with commonalities
    • Reconnecting with your dormant ties and reconnecting and finding out how you can help them with what they’re working on

Closing thoughts:

Solid book that centers around the benefits of being a giver, how to succeed as a giver, and tons of good examples of how givers get ahead. I will say I was iffy during the first sections of the book, but it definitely wrapped up well by the end. I took way less notes than I usually do because there were so many examples for each main idea, and the ideas were reiterated a lot.

I noted that 40 minutes into this book out of 11 hours and I felt like I already got the gist of the main idea. I really hoped the rest of the book wasn’t just a bunch of fluff. Why am I hearing about what I am going to learn one hour into an 11 hour book for a good two minutes of time? Just give me the general overview and move on. Don’t tell me what I am going to learn. Are we jumping back to the table of contents or something?

The section about networking and the different styles and consequences of each type of person’s networking style has reminds me of the book Never Eat Alone. My hunch is that givers have the most effective way of networking and create the best results.

I really enjoyed the section about George Meyers and being a giver as a part of a creative, collaborative team. Not only do you produce great results, but you help other people produce great results through your generosity.

Overall, a lot of good examples of how and why givers succeed. One of my major critiques is that there are parts that seem like a lot of fluff. Definitely a lot of great examples, but I think this book could have been shortened by at least 1/4 to 1/3 just to be more concise. The beginning especially felt like a long, drawn-out, and unnecessary set up when I was just waiting to get to the action. Great concept, but I felt it didn’t need to be as long as it was.

Nutshell: How and why Givers outperform Matchers and Takers.

Rating: 3/5

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