Give and Take

This week I want to share 2 references: Give and Take (2013) by Adam Grant, PhD and the classic parable, The Alchemist (1993) by Paulo Coelho.
Organizational psychologist and business professor Adam Grant wrote Give and Take to challenge the pervasive contemporary thinking that people achieve success by being aggressive, individualistic, charismatic, hard-driving, exceptionally talented and occasionally just plain lucky. Instead, he suggests that in our increasingly complex and interdependent world, our success depends on how we interact with others.
He draws on extensive research and suggests that there are generally three ways of being in relationships: taker, matcher and giver. The assumption has been that the dominant ‘takers’ will step on others and rise to the top and the ‘givers’ will be the ones at the bottom of the heap, content to serve selflessly. The ‘tit for tat’ matchers lie somewhere in the middle. Adam points to research that, at first glance, confirms this assumption. In a number of fields and professions, people that are high givers tend not to do as well at school, and in the workplace. They have difficulty getting all the work done as they are busy giving to and caring for others.  These are the ‘selfless givers’ who often become exhausted and unappreciated. So is it the takers or matchers that achieve more success? Neither – it is the givers who demonstrate both high concern for others AND high concern for self – what he calls the ‘otherish givers’. 
These people have self-preservation instincts. They give happily, lovingly and without conditions but are also selective – working on matters of significant importance and concern to them that are aligned with their ‘calling’, building strong networks, but also recognizing when to step away and do something restorative. These people are exceptional at connecting people and ideas, collaborating, influencing and giving credit to others. They favour ‘powerless communications’ instead of ‘power-over communications’. They may toil for some time without overt recognition but their many ‘weak ties’ with people that have benefited from their kindnesses and contributions enable them to be more nimble and adaptive as their approach encourages others to offer what they can when needed.   
Adam’s perspective on how to be an authentic and loving ‘giver’ that doesn’t get depleted was intriguing to me as I see so many of us in this field burning out – or getting burned – by the seemingly endless demands on our time, resources and energy. What can we learn about resilience from Adam’s research? Otherish givers have a clear cause, they derive genuine satisfaction from helping others, they act in ways that builds trust which inspires others to offer what they can, they are not afraid to ask for help, they give credit to others, they build up ‘reserves’ of happiness and meaning that they can draw on when the pain or sadness of the work wears them down. Adam offers suggestions about how to practice and nurture otherish giving. 
There is a lot more that I may say about the book in the future as it is full of stories that shed light on the qualities of givers, how to be a giver while staying whole and strong, and how to overcome our bias that gets in the way of us clearly seeing what others contribute.
By contrast, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a simple, sweet classic that fits well with the topic of Elango’s work. This ‘hero’s journey’ story follows a Spanish shepherd that pursues his dream/calling – or ‘personal legend’ – and discovers much about himself and his purpose in the world.