Book Review: Give and Take

giveandtake-coverAs part of my journey to read less for more (read that post here), I chose 5 books for the month of January to dive into. Final report? I read 3 of the 5 and read an unplanned 4th.

I finished Give and Take first in 2014, and thoroughly enjoyed this book by organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant. Written in a style similar that Malcolm Gladwell, Grant combines research along with narrative examples to display the power of giving. The thesis is found on page 4:

“According to conventional wisdom, highly successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability, and opportunity. If we want to succeed, we need a combination of hard work, talent, and luck. The story of…highlights a fourth ingredient, one that’s critical but often neglected: success depends heavily on how we approach our interaction with other people. 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?”

For the rest of the work, Grant shows time and time again the value of being a giver in work, life, and leadership. So often, we assume that to succeed we must be primarily concerned about “numero uno” — but Grant shows us the research as well as the anecdotes from real life tell us the opposite is true.

Why?

Givers put the success of the group ahead of their individual success.
Givers aren’t assessing a cost-analysis every time they choose to give or take from someone. They just give. Period.
Givers are contagious. Giving spreads.
Giving is a “genius-making” quality.
Givers see the potential in everyone and everything.
Givers are more receptive to learning and receiving feedback.
Givers are vulnerable, and vulnerability is becoming a more and more common trait followers want to see in their leaders.
Givers allow space for others to speak and be heard.

Tweet: Givers are vulnerable, and vulnerability is becoming a trait followers want to see in their leaders. http://ctt.ec/geeo2+Givers are vulnerable, and vulnerability is becoming a trait leaders want to see in their leaders.

The key takeaway:
Right around the time I turned 30 years old, I also changed jobs. I took a few months to reflect on this change, and one of the primary shifts that occurs with turning 30 (and becoming a husband, father, and leader) is that life is less about taking (what can I receive? where can I grow? how can I succeed?) than giving (how can I give? how can I help others grow? how can I help others succeed?). Admittedly, this shift is not easy. It requires setting aside an ugly ego and deep-seated pride. But it’s necessary.

While I’m still a work in progress, my 30s are devoted to becoming more and more of a giver and less of a taker. When I’m done with ministry, life, and leadership, I want others to see me as a giver, not as a taker. It will take some work, but it’s the key to success.

What is one thing you can do to GIVE to someone today? 

Guest Post: On Being a Small Group Leader

I asked permission from Andrea Eiken to re-post an amazing blog she originally wrote over at http://blog.eaglebrookchurch.com/hand-picked-by-god/. Here are her words…

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I didn’t plan it.
I didn’t necessarily want it.
But God wanted it for me.
And I’m so thankful.

In 2008, I volunteered to serve as a 9th grade small group leader in Revolution, EBC’s high school ministry. Ninth grade was my toughest year growing up, and I hoped my experiences could be helpful to students going through similar things.

I was terrified. I was afraid of the commitment. I feared getting texts from kids late at night asking to come over because they got into a fight with their parents. I feared them confessing things to me that I wouldn’t know how to respond to. I feared them putting me on a pedestal I didn’t think I deserved. I feared loss of my free time and personal space.

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But I put one foot in front of the other and stepped into the fear and let God show me what he had planned for me. I was paired with a co-leader named Juli Thompson. We were like-minded on how to relate to the girls, how to facilitate discussions, where lines needed to be drawn―God couldn’t have hand-picked a better team.

Speaking of hand-picking, He couldn’t have put together a greater group of girls. Every week, I felt like the most uncool, old, lame, out-of-touch person as I walked through the doors at Revolution. But the minute we sat down with our girls, I felt like a wise older sister they actually liked. I didn’t think I had anything these girls wanted or needed. But God began to show me that I had plenty to offer them, and he had chosen me for this time and this place in their lives.

I didn’t have to try. In fact, leading this group of girls took very little effort. It wasn’t a commitment that stole all of my free time away. It was a joy. As the first year went on, Juli and I would email each other throughout the workday talking about the things our girls were going through. Parents divorcing, sick relatives, tough teachers, boyfriends. We’d pray for them and worry over them like doting parents, afflicted with an overwhelming love we couldn’t ignore.

At the end of our first year, Juli and I had had an incredible experience. But we were tired. We’d given up three hours of our Wednesday nights for a solid school year, plus time hanging out with the girls at service projects, coffee shops, restaurants, and malls. We loved them, but we thought we wanted a break. We both worked full-time and felt exhausted each week. At the Winter Retreat, as we discussed a particularly deep message from large group that night in our cabin, there was a silence. One of our girls, Angie, spoke up and asked, “Are you guys going to be our leaders until we graduate?” A few other girls chimed in and said, “Yeah! Are you?!” Juli and I gave each other a knowing glance. We’d discussed quitting Revolution at the end of the school year, already. We smiled at each other and replied to the girls, “Of course! We’ll be here!” And they cheered.

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The four-year commitment we’d made didn’t frighten us. It was something we knew we could do, despite our exhaustion and personal lives. Sure, we were still tired at times. But as soon as we were with our girls, God gave us the energy, the enthusiasm, the spirit, and love we needed to impart knowledge, wisdom, laughter, and joy. God called Juli and I to this. And He held our hands through it.

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Before they could drive, we picked them up when their parents couldn’t or wouldn’t drive them to church. When I had to work during the weekend of our first Winter Retreat, I drove up late the second day and surprised them. Juli and I took turns inviting the girls into our homes. We had a sleepover every January. And never slept. We went shopping and tried on ridiculous items like strapless rompers. We laughed until we cried. We ate burritos and Domino’s pizza and Cheezits and Chips Ahoy. Nothing that was good for us. And we loved every minute.

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We walked through joys like baptisms and recommitments to following Jesus. We also waded through heartbreaks like the deaths, divorces, addictions, recoveries, mean girls, abuse, and betrayal. Each time Juli and I were faced with these girls looking at us with eyes full of questions and hurt, God gave us the words. He gave us full hearts. He made us who these girls needed us to be. We clung to Him.

When the girls graduated in the Spring of 2012, Juli and I were full of pride and sadness. We were so sad to see this time with our girls come to an end. We brought them roses on the last night of Revolution and told them how proud we were of them. And we watched them drive away. In their own cars. With their own licenses. And plans for the future. And their own relationships with God.

What a joy it is to know that God chose us for these girls. And He chose them for us. What an honor it is to still receive a text message, a full year after Revolution ended, asking, “I don’t get it. Why does God let things like this happen?” My heart is still warmed by each opportunity to make Jesus clearer to these precious girls. Juli and I still pray for them, we talk about them, and we hope for the best things for them. They were God’s gift and our joy.

Andrea

Andrea Eiken is the Communications + Marketing specialist at Eagle Brook Church. She hosts EBC’s On The Fly, and lives in the Northeast Metro with her Yorkie, Louis Armstrong.