Giving it all Away

There are three types of people:
Givers, takers and matchers.
Takers like to get more than they give.
Matchers aim to preserve an equal balance between giving and getting.

Givers prefer to give more than they get, and often give without expecting anything in return.

Adam Grant spent 10 years researching the three styles to find which approach was most effective.

Of the three groups, givers were the happiest, most productive and enjoyed the most successful working lives.

The paradox of giving is this:

The people who are most focused on helping others succeed, are the most successful themselves.

But like everything in life, it’s not that simple.

Grant also found that givers were failing most miserably too.

If you placed the three groups on a spectrum from ‘failing and miserable’ to ‘successful and happy’, you would find givers at both ends, with takers and matchers somewhere in between.

So why do some givers win, and others struggle?

2 Types of Givers

‘There are two great forces of human nature: self interest, and caring for others.’ – Bill Gates

There are two types of giving styles- selfless and otherish.

Selfless givers have a high interest in helping others, but have very low self- interest.

They sacrifice their own needs, desires and happiness to serve others. They are extremely generous with everybody – except themselves.

Otherish givers have high self interest and high other interest.

We assume that self interest and other interest are opposite- you can’t have both at the same time.

But over the ten year period, Grant found that most successful people were those who found a way to combine the two.

They focus on helping others, but also have ambitious goals for themselves.

They find win-win situations, where they benefit and help others at the same time.

How Otherish Givers Thrive

They scratch their own itch first

My approach to blogging is simple: share what excites me most.’ – Tim Ferriss

Successful givers focus their giving in the areas they are most interested in and passionate about.

This allows them to pour their enthusiasm fully into the work.

By scratching your own itch first, you can find win-win situations where you follow your own interests, while also helping others at the same time.

They ‘chunk’ their giving

There is a growing body of research linking random acts of kindness with improved heart health, reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, and big releases of the feel good hormone – oxytocin.

A study by the psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, showed that random acts of kindness were maximally beneficial for the giver when ‘chunked’ into one day, compared with ‘sprinkling’ them throughout different days of the week.

They don’t over-extend

Several studies have shown that volunteering 100 hours per year (2 hours per week) is the sweet spot range where giving is maximally energising and minimally draining.

This allows you enough time to make a meaningful difference without being overwhelmed or sacrificing other priorities in the process.

It’s also the range in which volunteering is most likely to offer benefits to the volunteer as well as the recipients involved.

They use the 5 minute rule

Adam Rifkin – one of the stars of the book, and ‘the best networker in the United States’ according to Fortune Magazine, uses a simple rule called the ‘five minute favour’ to decide when to give.

‘You should be willing to do something that will take you 5 minutes or less for anybody.’

They focus on helping gritty givers

Naturally, we want to invest our giving where it will have the biggest impact.

We don’t want our efforts to be wasted.

For this reason, successful givers focus on giving to ‘gritty givers’- people who work hard, and show a commitment to helping others.

They view people as bloomers

‘When we treat a man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.’
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In a famous study by Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal, students were given cognitive ability tests in 18 different classes.

In each class, the teachers were given information that certain students in their class had scored highly on the test. These students were labelled as ‘bloomers’ with high potential.

(The students were not given this information.)

Interestingly, students who were labelled ‘bloomers’ had not actually done better in the test.

They had been selected at random, and in many cases, had actually performed worse than classmates.

The following year, researchers returned to the school and administered another test.

In this test, students who had been labelled as the ‘bloomers’ outperformed their classmates – by a landslide.

The only difference between ‘bloomer’ students and their peers, was in the mind of the teacher.

Givers naturally see the potential in others, and given enough time, they will eventually bring it out of them.

‘It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.’ – John Holmes

Science is now confirming what philosophers, religions and myths have been teaching for centuries.

In the long run, giving is one of the best tools we have available for a fulfilling life.

But it only works, if you are generous with yourself first.

Niall McKeever

Niall McKeever

Writer and Founder of The Weekend University. Passionate about making great ideas more accessible.

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0 Responses

  1. Great post man!
    I find this topic very interesting.
    I’d like to ask you something:
    When you are a otherish givers, how does it affects to you if you keep it for yourself or you show off about it?
    Does it affect to your hapiness?

    1. Hi Jon,
      I suppose it depends on the individual situation. But I think the idea is to do what you love while finding a way to help other people at the same time. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that!
      Some new research in neuroscience is showing that giving activates natural reward systems in the giver’s brain.
      When we give, hormones like oxytocin get released which cause us to feel happiness and improved social connection with others.

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