“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
– Proverbs 11:25
“There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go as long as he doesn’t mind who gets the credit,” so claimed the late Robert Woodruff who chaired the Coca-Cola Company from 1915-1965. He should know, as one who lived by that very creed. Known as Mr. Anonymous, Woodruff built and led one of the greatest business empires in the world. Anonymity marked both his leadership style and his philanthropy throughout most of his life. Only in later years did he allow his name to be identified with his benevolences. Under his direction, Coca-Cola grew from the fledging concept of a flavored beverage in a bottle to the world’s most renowned thirst-quencher.
In his book Give and Take the popular Wharton Business School professor and author, Adam Grant, goes a step further, proving through years of academic research that contrary to conventional belief, good guys actually do finish first, not last. While it remains true that successful people tend to have the same common characteristics of motivation, ability and opportunity, there is a fourth ingredient which Professor Grant claims is often overlooked. “Success,” he says, “depends heavily on how we approach our interactions 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?” Grant distinguishes these two as either “takers” or “givers”, takers being self-focused, evaluating what other people can offer them, while givers are other-focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them. The conclusion of Grant’s research is that – in the long run – it is the givers more than the takers who rise to the highest rungs on the ladder of success.
Years ago, the late Dr. Viktor Frankl, another popular professor, once lectured his students: “Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. . . I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.” In other words, pursue the path of the giver, not the taker; for “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”