I got a lot more out of Give and Take than I expected. Actually, I got a huge value from it. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why I’m drained at work when I’m not too busy, why I’m energized when I’m swamped, and why I work better with some managers than others. This book helped me figure some of that out. And funny story – it was written by Adam Grant, a professor at my current university, whom I met when he led a negotiations simulation in which I performed truly terribly and after which I was very embarrassed. But when we saw each other again, he remembered my name, and gave me a thoughtful compliment about the (very few) things I did right in that first meeting – he is a giver, and a really nice guy.

The gist: Givers are people who give their time and money without worrying about whether the person to whom they’re giving can offer anything in return. Takers try to give as little and get as much as possible in every interaction. Matchers try to give to others who can give back to them in equal proportion. Givers are not chumps – research shows that some of them are at the bottom of the ladder of success, but many of them are vastly more successful than matchers or takers, and when givers are successful, they use their success to make other people also successful. The key is to know how and to whom you should give.

My favorite parts:

Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?


  • Are “otherish” – they care about benefiting others, but they also have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests; they’re willing to give more than they receive, but still keep their own interests in sight, using them as a guide for choosing when, where, and to whom to give
  • Avoid getting burned by becoming Matchers in their exchanges with Takers.
  • Reject the notion that interdependence is weak, and are more likely to see interdependence as a source of strength, a way to harness the skills of multiple people for a greater good
  • Collaborate by taking on tasks that are in the group’s best interest, not necessarily their own personal interests
  • Focus on the interpersonal and organizational consequences of their decisions, accepting a blow to their pride and reputation in the short term in order to make better choices in the long term
  • Are comfortable expressing vulnerability, because they’re interested in helping others, not gaining power over them

Our behaviors leak traces of our motives.

Talented people are attracted to those who care about them. 

Oftentimes, we fail to identify with people because we’re thinking about ourselves – or them – in terms that are too specific or narrow. If we look more broadly at commonalities between us, it becomes much easier to see giving as otherish. 

“If we create networks with the sole intention of getting something, we won’t succeed. We can’t pursue the benefits of networks; the benefits ensue from investments in meaningful activities and relationships.” – Wayne Baker

“You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody.” – Adam Rifkin

“The thing about credit is that it’s not zero-sum. There’s room for everybody, and you’ll shine if other people are shining.” – George Meyer

“The selfish / unselfish divide may be a red herring. Why try to extract the self from the other, or the other from the self, if the merging of the two is the secret behind our cooperative nature?” – Frans de Waal

A tribe with many people acting like givers, who “were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection” – (quoted portion from) Charles Darwin

What I did with my copy: Gave it to a friend, of course