Myth: Assh*les Get Ahead

It’s true that the myth above is false:  You don’t have to be Donald Trump to get ahead.  It’s also true that some do despite being jerks, but for a given amount of talent and hard work, you’ll get even farther by being collaborative and generous.

In his book, Give and Take, Adam Grant turns the dominance paradigm for success on its head.  Grant studied all kinds of people from medical students to salesman and found the same surprising theme again and again.  Though the givers tended to be at the bottom portion of the performance curve, they were also at the top.

Why is this?

Grant says that givers are liked and so others go out of their way to promote their success.  Givers are generous of their time and resources, share credit, work to ensure the success of the group over their self-interest, and use a collaborative style of communication.  Givers are not afraid to ask for help, be uncertain or show their vulnerability.  Takers, on the other hand, use dominance and a powerful communication style, hog the credit and limelight, and will work to advance their own interest.  Takers rarely will be willing to show their vulnerability and instead work to display their mastery and dominance.  Matchers, those who try to balance the give and take so it comes out even, tend to punish takers and reward givers.


If you think about it, we are social and hivish creatures.  We have succeeded evolutionarily because we have been willing to work together.  Those that get out of line and try to take too much are punished with gossip and retribution, according to Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis.  In other words, the givers will help the group and species advance, while the takers will be punished by the group because they advance themselves at the expense of the group.  While the taker strategy might pay off in the short run, gossip will ensure that everyone knows who the takers are.

The implications of this research are that if I am presented with a choice for self-interest over helping another, that helping not only will help advance my community, but it also is good for me in the long run.

So it’s really true:  It’s better to give than receive.  This giving doesn’t have to mean going out and volunteering and giving all your money to charitable causes.  There are so many ways to give in large and small ways alike.  Find a way to make it your own that is in line with your authentic self and which feeds your soul.  See how you can make your corner of the world a better place and you will find yourself a better person.

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