The lessons I learnt from Give and Take by Adam Grant

4 min readMar 26


This post is about the principle of Give and Take. This is the name of an awesome book written by Adam Grant. This is one of those books which changed my life in a profound way. Over the last ten odd years, I have tried practising it as a way of life. In the course of doing that and talking to others about it ( including many people who have also read the book ), I have gained a good understanding about the principle and how to use it effectively. This post is about everything that I have learned.

First, what is Give and Take

According to Grant, there are two types of people in this world in terms of their reciprocality styles. Givers are altruistic and like to help others. Without always expecting something in return. Then there are Takers who are selfish and want to take more than what they give to others. They believe that its a dog eat dog world and you can win only if others lose.

Obviously this is a spectrum and nobody is a giver or a taker all the time. They exhibit this differently in different situation in their life. But people do tend to have a predominant style. There is also a third type called Matchers.

Givers are losers Myth

The general view is that givers are losers and finish last. But Grant makes an excellent case that this is not true and Givers actually win in life. But its not a straight forward formula for success in life. You have to embrace it fully and do it right.

How do Givers end up winning in life?

I am not saying this. This is based on research data. And based on my own expereince in life, I can say that it is 100% true. I will share a few examples of how Givers win.

Givers are much better at building trust with people. That ability is a superpower. When you have trust with others you can do so much. You can collaborate better, you can delegate effectively etc. Essentially, you work better with people.

Givers also build great networks. Over a period of time, these wide and relaible networks become a powerful asset.

Everyone wants to work with Givers. They want them in their projects and their teams. This creates more opportunities for Givers.

Why is becoming a Giver hard ?

Giving is a great strategy which can make you a winner in life. But if you don’t do it right, you can also end becoming a big loser. More on the doing it right later.

This is a long term strategy. Which means it will take a lot of time before you start seeing the rewards. And often people give up because they will its not effective. More so because you will see takers enjoy short term gains.

You have to do it genuinely. You cannot fake it. You wont have the trust building superpower if you are faking it.

But there is a way to do it. Will come to it later.

How to do Giving right ?

Avoid killing your self.

A giver would like to give and help everyone. But they have only so much energy and time. So they need to prioritise. Who needs their giving the most. And they need to learn to say no.

One trick is to remember your time, your energy, and your financial resources belong, first and foremost, to the people who genuinely love you. As long as prioritise people who matter more and learn to say no, you will do giving in the right way.

Tit for tat

Givers need to make sure, you dont get exploited by Takers. When you sense you are being exploited by a born ‘taker,’ it’s time to stop being a pushover. It’s time to play what Adam Grant calls ‘generous tit-for-tat.’ Basically, start with a giving attitude but they dont reciprocate, then treat them the way they treat you. Deal with them like a taker. But if they change, then you should also change to a Giver immediately.

Sincerity Screening

One common mistake, Givers make is in recognising Givers and Takers. Adam Grant warns us that don’t assume that polite, agreeable people are givers, while disagreeable people are the takers. The right identification helps in dealing with different types differently.

How to become an effective Giver ?

First you need absolute belief in the power of giving and full commitment. Second, you need to practise doing it correctly. Avoiding takers, saying no and prioritising. One hack which helps is self labelling. Remind yourself everyday that you are a Giver and why giving is great. This deep reinforcement is very powerful. There will be cognitive dissonance every time you dont act as a true Giver. Slowly change will happen and it will help you fully embrace giving.