01/07/2014 07:18 pm ET Updated Mar 09, 2014

Make 2014 Truly Awesome! Give More than You Receive

If you were to do a study, who do you suppose would finish at the bottom of the success ladder, people who give a lot or people who take a lot?

If you guessed people who give a lot, you're right.

Who would you guess ends up at the top of the success ladder, the givers or the takers?

If you guessed takers, you might be surprised to learn that it's actually the givers who end up on top.

How can this be?

In his excellent book called Give and Take, Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor to date at Wharton Business School, lays out the answers to that question with engaging stories and poignant scientific research.

I couldn't put Give and Take down, and it is certainly now in my top 10 all-time favorite books. Although I highly recommend you read this book, I don't think I could sleep tonight if I didn't share some of the key ideas with you.

Takers Only Win in the Short Term

There are two main explanations for why givers end up at both the very top of the success ladder in some cases, and the very bottom in others. The first reason is that it's often simply a matter of time.

In the short term, takers often have much greater success than givers do. However, sustainable success depends heavily on reputation and quality personal relationships. Thus, although takers may win in the short term, over time their selfishness catches up with them because they gradually erode the foundation of sustained success.

Givers, conversely, often rise to the top built on a solid foundation of great relationships, so their success just keeps growing and growing.

Grant shows clearly that givers:

  • Earn the highest income
  • Build the most powerful and extensive networks
  • Are the best team players, collaborators, and leaders of teams
  • Attract and retain the most talented people for their teams
  • Are the best presenters
  • Are the best at generating sales
  • Are the best at negotiating
  • Have the highest levels of resilience to stress
  • Have the strongest willpower

Why It's Better to Give and Receive

The second explanation for why givers end up at both the very top and the very bottom of the success ladder is that there are two different types of givers. One type is almost guaranteed to end up at the top of the success ladder. The other is almost guaranteed to end up at the bottom.

The givers who end up at the bottom are the ones who give whenever they're asked, without taking their own needs into account. They burnout quickly, are largely ineffective at completing tasks, and are usually seen as pushovers, so they don't earn the respect of others.

The givers who end up at the top of the success ladder are the ones who measure very high in terms of their desire for helping others, but who also measure very high for personal achievement drive and desire for excellence.

The most highly successful people are what Grant calls otherish. Otherish people always look to add more value than they get from any given interaction, but they also make sure that their needs are met.

In other words, although they pursue personal excellence and make sure that they take of their basic needs, the most successful people try to always give more than they receive.

Make 2014 Truly Awesome!

The best news about givers being the most likely to succeed is that every one of us can be a giver!

We don't have to be the smartest or most talented person to have high levels of success.

Here are a few things you can do to start transforming into an otherish giver:

  • Be committed to your own health and personal development
  • When meeting people, ask lots of questions about them and think of ways you could help at some point using 5 minutes or less of your own time
  • Commit to volunteering at least two consecutive hours each week doing something that you're good at and enjoy doing, and where you can see that you're making a positive impact on others
  • Visit to see your natural style and find lots of resources for becoming more of a giver