Quite some years ago someone told me that you can only make good friends during school / college / university. Once you start working you would only make acquaintances or casual friends. Later I found that most people believe this theory. I never believed it – mainly because I have been able to make good friends at all places I have worked as well as during my entrepreneurial journey.The argument in favor of the theory is that during education days most people are more open, quite friendly & not very selfish. They have not been exposed to world of working people which is full of politics / competition / behind the back tactics etc. I could not spot the fault in the logic but my personal experience was totally different, so I kept looking for a way to explain my experience. Over the last year I developed a theory about a very fundamental aspect of human nature – giving & taking. Of course, there have been many others who have written about this aspect.
Giving is an act where you willingly give something of value to another person or an organization. One way is to give things that have clear monetary value, like a book, or a ride home. The other way is to share insights, give advice or make introductions. The opposite of “giving” is “taking”, and the two always occur together.
While each person gets involved in giving & taking many times every day, my theory is that in most cases one of the trait dominates – so a person is either a natural giver or a taker.
- A natural giver is someone who is happy to give first without worrying about what he can take back from the other person
- A taker is someone who only gives to people from whom he expects to get something
After we started madhouse, the first major conference I attended was TiECON Delhi. I was an entry level entrepreneur & wanted to interact with folks who are experienced, so that I can learn from them. I didn’t have anything to give in return. I only wanted to take & assumed that all the experienced folks whom I would meet would be happy to share their experience & give me advice. Well, it didn’t quite turn out like that. A majority of the guys I met turned out to be takers, (I evolved the theory many years later) as soon as they learnt I am an entry level guy, they would make an excuse & move on to someone else They only wanted to talk to folks who were above their own level. But I was also fortunate to meet some folks who were natural givers & didn’t treat an entry level guy like me like an untouchable. They were happy to hear me out / share their experiences / offer me some contacts / give insights. A lot of what I am today an entrepreneur is due to these helpful people, whom I kept meeting thru the years.Whenever I get an opportunity to give back to some of these folks, I go out of the way to help.This much of the concept I have had in mind for 6 months now but recently I had a major new insight, which led me to write this post.
“Over the long run, progress in the world happens only with the efforts between two (or more) givers. Even if one person in the equation is a taker, at best there would be some short term progress.”
Life of a taker
- When a taker meets a person who is at a better level in a particular aspect he wants to take some benefit
- He starts by behaving as a giver so that he can create a good impression but his eventual goal is to take
- If the other person is a giver, it works for sometime but sooner or later, the relationship goes downhill when the taker’s true intent is revealed
- If the second person is also a taker the whole thing will anyway be a non-starter
- If a taker meets a person who is lower level than him he would take no interest in this person
Giver meets giver
A good friend of mine one day bumped into a popular & accomplished author at a Crossword book store near his home. They had an interesting conversation & decided to meet for coffee. During the coffee my friend mentioned that he too had plans to write books but didn’t know where to start. The author asked him about the ideas he had for writing a book / dismissed his first idea / probed more into his life & helped him pick a topic which was far more suited to make a good book. Once the topic was finalized he told my friend “If you decide to write the book now, I will edit it for you & will help you write it”. My friend could hardly believe what he heard, such an accomplished author is offering to edit my book & help me write, I must be dreaming. But he had heard it right. “If you want me to help, you will need to commit to writing one chapter every week”, the author added. That sounded almost impossible to my friend, but it seemed too good an opportunity to miss and my friend signed up for it. Last time I spoke to him, he had already finished 6 chapters & learnt an awful lot about writing a book.
Sometime during this interaction it turned out that the author wants to learn Sanskrit & my friend is quite good with Sanskrit. He started teaching Sanskrit to the author & a good amount of progress has made on that front as well. As the author is getting something of value to him, he is even more willing to help my friend with the book. And the story goes on.This is a story in which two givers meet, give to each other in a selfless manner. The world now has one new author & one more guy who is learning Sanskrit. Whereas if the author was a taker there would have been no value creation / if my friend was only interested in taking the friendship would have fizzled out after a point / if both were takers the outcome would be zero as well. They are both benefitting because they are both givers. The giver-taker theory has helped me properly explain why I was able to make good friends even after school / college / university. Basically these people who became my good friends are all givers & I’m a giver by nature as well. So whenever we connected the process of selfless giving took place & became foundation of our friendship. The final word
In the long run, for your personal benefit and benefit of the world around you, you should be a giver. Just give it a shot – I am sure you will love the change. A nice side effect of folks who are givers is that people around them become more inclined to become givers and make the world a better place. If you are a part giver / part taker switchover totally to giving. If you are already a giver – stay as it is and keep contributing to the world.
1. This is my birthday post and a token thanks to all the givers of my life
2. Thanks to Shashank, Aditya, Ankur, Dhammo, Nandini and Jay for reviewing the draft and giving inputs