Tuesday Morning Book Review || Give & Take

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to success (kindle version) by Adam Grant.

I’ll be honest, I had a hard time getting into this book. But once I did, I was not disappointed that I read it.

Give and Take looks at who are the most successful people in the world: givers, takers or matchers. What he found from all walks of life, those that are givers are more successful than takers or simply matchers. This is counter-intuitive and what makes the book so good. This book seeks to answer this question:

Every time we interact with another person we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?

While our culture tends to shun givers at the beginning, in the long run according to Grant, “Those who give first are best positioned for success later.”

So what are givers? They are what Grant calls Otherish:

If takers are selfish and failed givers are selfless, successful givers are otherish: they care about benefiting others, but they also have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests. Being otherish means being willing to give more than you receive but still keeping your own interests in sight, using them as a guide for choosing when, where, how, and to whom you give.

I particularly found the chapter on why givers burnout very relevant to pastors. Here’s what Grant said:

Principle of giver burnout: it has less to do with the amount of giving and more with the amount of feedback about the impact of that giving. Givers don’t burn out when they devote too much time and energy to giving. They burnout when they’re working with people in need but are unable to help effectively. Givers burnout not because they are giving too much but because they don’t feel like their giving is making a difference.

Here are a few more things that jumped out:

  • When takers and matchers network, they tend to focus on who can help them in the near future, and this dictates what, where, and how they give. Their actions tend to exploit a common practice in nearly all societies around the world, in which people typically subscribe to a  norm of reciprocity: you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. If you help me, I’m indebted to you, and I feel obligated to repay.
  • People are more likely to benefit from weak ties.
  • You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody. 
  • Takers have a knack for generating creative ideas and championing them in the face of opposition. Because they have supreme confidence in their own opinions, they feel free of the shackles of social approval that constrict the imaginations of many people.
  • Here’s the definite feature of how givers collaborate: They take on the tasks that are in the group’s best interest, not necessarily their own personal interests.
  • Even when people are well intentioned, they tend to overvalue their own contributions and undervalue those of others.
  • Success doesn’t measure a human being, effort does.
  • Interest precedes the development of talent. It turns out that motivation is the reason that people develop talent in the first place.
  • In roles as leaders and mentors, givers resist the temptation to search for talent first. By recognizing that anyone can be a bloomer, givers focus their attention on motivation.
  • Givers focus on gritty people.
  • When our audiences are skeptical, the more we try to dominate them, the more they resist.
  • In teams and service relationships, powerless speech is actually more influential than powerful speech.
  • Successful givers, it turns out, are just as ambitious as takers and matchers.
  • Takers tend to care more about benefitting personally form their jobs, givers care deeply about doing jobs that benefit other people.
  • The perception of impact serves as a buffer against stress, enabling employees to avoid burnout and maintain their motivation and performance.
  • Research shows that if people start volunteering two hours a week, their happiness and satisfaction, and self-esteem goes up a year later (Pastors, use this the next time you vision cast about serving at your church).
  • People who initially give things away for self reasons begin to care about the people they’re helping.
  • Common ground is a major influence on giving behaviors (Pastors, use this idea when vision casting about giving and fundraising).
  • People often take because they don’t realize that they’re deviating from the norm.
  • When we try to predict other’s reactions, we focus on the cost of saying yes, overlooking the cost of saying no (This has enormous implications on next steps in preaching).
  • If many people believe in giving, but assume others don’t, the whole norm in a group or company can shift away from giving (How a church becomes more giving).

I saved this last quote because it has enormous implications on preaching, discipleship and next steps:

According to a study led by NYU psychologist Peter Gollwitzer, people who went public with their intentions to engage in an identity relevant behavior were significantly less likely to engage in the behavior than people who kept their intentions private. When people made their identity plans known to others, they were able to claim identity without actually following through on the behavior.

I found this book particularly helpful because many of the people who are pastors, work in ministry or volunteer at a church are givers. Grant lays out what characteristics givers have, how to encourage them to reach their potential and not burnout. A helpful book for any pastor.