Givers and cynics

A friend shared two observations yesterday about graduate school –
1. Givers who go out of their way to help others have a better experience are those who benefit the most from the learning and growth that accompanies it.
2. There is a strong correlation between those who only take from an experience and those who tend to be cynical and complaining.

I became aware of these ideas thanks to a really good book by Adam Grant called “Give and Take.” I’ve seen this everywhere since and I find this to very true for a couple of reasons.

First, if your only objective is to optimize for yourself  and absorb everything you possibly can without contributing, you unwittingly surrender accountability for your own life experience. That is why there’s a strong correlation between being a taker and a cynic. In addition, I think it is a guaranteed route to unhappiness because you spend way too much time asking yourself if you are having a good experience. That brings a lot of pressure and, besides, there’s only so much good that can come from taking your thoughts so seriously.

Second, I don’t believe giving to the community is a selfless act. I think it is a very selfish act because sustainable giving requires you to have a strong reason that benefits you. The absence of a good reason is a recipe for burn out. But, what separates it from “taking” in my mind is that the selfishness is just directed outward. This outward focus is massively helpful as it both helps us get perspective by understanding others and their journeys better while also making sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

I have come to believe that most good things in life are a result of counter intuitive actions. It feels intuitive to believe that the more you take, the more you will get. But, I’ve found that to be wrong. The more you give, the more you get. This may not hold if all you’re focusing on is short term gratification.

But, it definitely holds in things that matter.

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