Brief Lessons From Reading “Give And Take”

The book I’ve heard most in Valley chatter this year is “Give And Take” by Adam Grant. Many of you reading this will likely have already read the book (or listened on audio tape), or at least have heard of the book. If you haven’t read it, please do. I think it’s an important book and framework to have. Briefly, in the context of entrepreneurship and being in the Valley, here are my takeaways:

  1. No matter how hard you’ve tried, we’ve all exhibited tendencies of a taker, matcher, and giver. We are hard-wired to react in certain ways and in certain situations. It’s OK, I think — we are human. But, this book makes it important to understand “why” we react the way we do, and more importantly, how others may perceive those actions.
  2. Be comfortable with the fact that sometimes takers will dupe you. My friend Charles had a great line about this. He is very much a giver. He said, paraphrasing, “I’ve come to terms with the fact that some people will just take, and that I’ll be taken advantage of.” That really helped me get over some of my grudges.
  3. Perception matters as much as your intention. I pride myself as a giver and would hope many feel this way. Yet, I had a good friend point out to me that some may view me from afar as a matcher. That really rattled me, though I can see how this may happen. There’s nothing wrong with being a matcher so long as everyone knows it, but I think people grow suspicious of others who try to position themselves as a giver but act like a matcher.
  4. Takers present a framework for uncomfortable interactions. Charles, again, had a great line. Have you ever had an unpleasant work interaction and tried to classify it, but couldn’t? In many cases, those can be derived from a taker mentality. This book gave me a framework by which to organize those experiences and better understand its roots.
  5. Giving is a strategy, not how folks are hard-wired. Some givers are truly wired this way, but many are also making a cognizant choice to be a giver. There’s nothing wrong with this. Giving as a strategy is a great practice.
  6. It’s hard not to bucket people after reading this book. The framework is so simple and powerful, it’s very hard to unlearn it. Now, when I have deeper interactions with people, I’m constantly thinking — are they a taker, matcher, or giver. I will admit this is not a healthy thing to have on your mind, but perhaps that speaks to the power of this book.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2018 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus