Give and Take — Book Review

Victor Leung
3 min readOct 16, 2022

In this blog post, I will review a book I read this weekend, Give and Take by Adam Grant. I believe learning and growth are fundamental human needs, and sharing ideas with others about what I learn from the book is a form of active learning.

First of all, who is the author? Adam Grant is a young professor at Walton business school. His research and books are insightful. In his mid thirty, he already wrote 5 books and they are best sellers.

In this book, he challenges our basic assumptions, such as winner takes all and nice guys finished last. Why do people believe these expressions? It is a perception that by giving too much, other people would take advantage of it. Nobody enjoys being taken advantage of, which affects how people give. TV shows and movies, further reinforce the idea that successful people need to be nasty. Greed is good. That is the typical stereotype portrayed in the movie wolf of wall street in finance. The winner needs to be an alpha man and monster who do nasty things. Is this value system truth or myth?

It is not true according to the book. There are four pillars of success. First is a strong motivation. The second is able with capability. The third is an opportunity, in order words, luck. And the fourth is how you interact with other people. There are three types of people: takers, matchers and givers.

Takers only take without return. All they care about is what’s in it for themselves. Matchers only give favour to others where there is a return. Their mindset is calculative. The Latin phrase Quid pro quo means an advantage granted in return for something, and it is common in politics. They try to be fair and balanced and only give benefits to others when there are returns. Givers care about other interests more than personal interests. Helping people with no strings attached. They are highly altruistic and not thinking about benefits for themselves in reciprocity styles.

In reality, we are usually mixed with all styles in different situations. For a salesperson, which styles would be more successful? Givers are the worst performer because they are spending time helping people and doesn’t generate sales. Meanwhile, takers cannot last long-term relationships. Matchers sound more likely to succeed. In fact, the top 10% of salespeople are givers as well surprisingly. Why do givers do better? Why top salespersons are givers?

One of the reasons could be the idea of reciprocity, and others wanting to help you. Givers do a lot better than takers, even with score tests on medical school students. Givers are either top performers or bottom performers according to the data. There are different kinds of givers, those selfless and don’t draw boundaries, thus not having any time left for themselves. Those who set boundaries in how to help people are more effective.

The time giver invested in solving other people’s problems ended up being an investment in their own development. Their career skyrocketed, and along with building strong relationships and reputations, givers gain a learning advantage. Solving other people’s problems can expand their own knowledge and skills.

Instead of purposing wealth (money, material possessions), power (dominance, control over others), pleasure (enjoying life), winning (doing better than others), I favour and prioritise helpfulness (working for the well-being of others), responsibility( being dependable), social justice (caring for the disadvantaged) and compassion (responding to the needs of others).

It seems counterintuitive, but the more altruistic your attitude, the more benefits you will gain from the relationship. If you set out to help others, you will rapidly reinforce your own reputation and expand your universe of possibilities. Extensive research reveals that people who give their time and knowledge regularly to help their colleagues end up earning more raising and promotions in a wide range of settings. Givers are appreciated for their contributions to the group. By taking on tasks that colleagues didn’t want, givers were able to dazzle them with wit without eliciting envy.

In summary, the code of honour is 1. Show up, 2. Work hard, 3. Be kind and 4. Be a giver. I love to make people laugh, entertain people and try to make the world a little better. It is really important to have a good reputation in a very small pond at work. It’s not a zero-sum game. The mindset here is to help. If anything I could help you out after reading this blog post, feel free to reach out :)

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Victor Leung

I write about business, technology and personal development