Another book that’s had a significant effect on me is “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.” The theory behind the book is that successful people are distinguished by their reciprocity style. First there are Takers, who focus on how they look towards the group and rush to take credit for their work. Their logic is, if I don’t look out for myself, who will? Matchers rely on an equitable system of favours to get ahead. Givers focus on helping as many people as they can. Givers are a particularly interesting case because they make up both the top and bottom performers in many different studies. Givers who help people with no regard for their own interests make up the bottom performance rung because they are too busy helping other people to focus on their own work. Givers at the top have structured their giving so that a maximum number of people can be helped for as little effort as needed.
I took the survey on the book’s website, giveandtake.com. I may have been a little primed by the book, but here’s how my tendency results broke down: 73% giver, 14% matcher, 13% taker. You need to ask your friends to rate you for a better assessment, but I have no idea who will take me up on that!
This could have implications for how I choose my side projects. Now the book hinted at, but never really went into, how Giving can work in the digital age. The Internet is a communications network, and its greatest strength is that the cost of reaching one additional person is zero. That means you can educate one person or a thousand without any additional effort. Does this mean I should choose my projects with a bias towards stuff I could share over the internet? If I’m working on a talk, should I create a video to practice? Should I do a freelancing project that helps one person, or fix an open source bug that helps thousands? Should I take a policy that states, “If I can’t share it, don’t do it”?
I do believe that the internet’s potential remains underused. If I’m going to get anyone else to believe that, I’d better start practicing what I preach. The next time I program in my free time, maybe I should start a google hangout and post it on youtube. Programming projects always take an indefinite amount of time. It could be weeks or months before I produce something I can share. If I post my process for everyone to see, maybe that can inspire more people to take up programming, or at the very least educate people on what I do. It won’t be much, but if I’m motivated to give, I had better start doing it early, and often.