What do all of the world’s most successful people have in common?
Is it their habits - their ability to wake early, exercise, meditate and remain focused all day? Is it their natural talents - leadership skills, being great with figures, a high IQ? Is it their attitude - an infallible belief in themselves and their capabilities? Or is it their motives - an unwavering desire to help others and make the world a better place?
Many would argue that the common denominator for success is all of these things, and some would argue it’s none of these things. Personally, I believe it’s a combination. But of the combination of habits, talents, attitude and motives, there is one thing that stands out as a determinant of success - motives, particularly, the motivation to give.
Research has proven that a trait common amongst all of the world’s most successful business people, is the propensity to give.* Now, many of us may find this surprising. We believe that it’s the “takers” in the world that get ahead, that push others out of the way to the top. We believe that ruthless ambition will help you get to the top, always negotiating to win, not letting others get in your way, asking, no demanding, for more! It is true that people with limitless ambition, that are ruthless in business, willing to sacrifice friendships, sometimes even family, for success, can be extremely successful (there would also be an argument that this success is purely financial and not a greater more meaningful success). However, “takers” are not the most successful; “givers” are.
Why is this? Put simply, in a true “win-win” negotiation, everyone wins. This is a metaphor for life. You could call it the Law of Abundance in action. The reality is, when you help another, they will help you. When you go out of your way to connect people, to share your learnings with them, to introduce them to a key person of influence, generally they will do the same for you. People also like to work with, and for, people they like. People like to buy from people they like. What do likeable people have in common? They are generally kind and will help out. They mentor their people and believe in success through others. These are the people that rise to the top, the leaders that believe their role is to empower and support their team, to help them achieve success. And the natural by-product of this is that they themselves also enjoy success.
Now, is this great news for all those “nice” people out there?
By being nice do you really have all that it takes to reach unparalleled heights of success? Do you simply have to be nice and wait your turn and success will come knocking? Actually, no. Let’s look at the topic of success from another angle. What trait do the majority of the least successful people in business also have in common? The answer, again, is they are “givers”. “Givers” are both the most successful and the least successful. “Takers” sit in the middle. Why is this? The difference is, there are the people who understand and own their personal value, and are happy to help and support others success, but not to their own detriment. They don’t lose a negotiation; they don’t spend time with “time-wasters”; they don’t discount their valuable products, time or service. People at the other end of the continuum that are “too nice” tend to do the reverse; they are doormats, people take advantage of their kindness, and they find themselves falling behind because they constantly put the needs of others before themselves. If you do find that you are guilty of being “too nice”, an awesome book to read is ‘Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office’ by Lois P. Frankel (it’s also a good read for men that are “too nice”).
So how can you become a “giver” (the successful kind)?
Firstly, you can give, quite literally. Give your money, your time, help out people and valuable causes. Last week I was privileged to attend two amazing events. The first was TEDx Sydney. Here I saw incredible people, giving up their lives to make the world a better place. They were smart, focused, dedicated and they were leading purposeful lives. If being up on a TEDx stage is not a hallmark of success, I don’t know what is. That, and they were able to raise more awareness and funds for their causes. TED believes in the power of ideas to change the world. People simply giving and sharing their amazing ideas makes the world a better place. It drives advances in medical science, decreases poverty, assists the conservation of the environment and so much more.
The second event I attended was Vivid: A Night of Disruptive Ideas Brought to you by Indeed, and was a fundraiser for Cure Brain Cancer. This event had it all - people giving and sharing their wisdom on creativity and disruptive ideas. It was for an incredibly important cause, Brain Cancer. Brain Cancer is the most fatal type of Cancer with a survival rate of only 20% within 5 years. The event was sponsored by Indeed, the #1 job site in the world (if you’re not searching for your next job on there you should be). This is “giving” in action. Everyone wins - the foundation, cancer patients, job seekers, not to mention all the amazing people who went to the event and met people who inspired them and who may one day help them in business.
Hand out a few business cards.
Networking is an incredibly powerful way of giving. “What?” you say. “How is schmoozing in suits, flinging out business cards and pushing your business or request for work onto others a good thing?” Well, put simply, it’s not. True networking is about meeting others and asking them about themselves, asking “what’s your story?” and “what do you need right now?” It’s about authentically connecting with people and actively listening. After all, you only learn when you listen, not when you talk. In forming relationships with people, you want to find out what they need and how you can help them. If they’re looking for a job, who can you connect them with that might be able to assist? If they are launching a business, do you know anyone who might require their product or service? Don’t do this because you’re expecting a favour, but because you can help - what an awesome and fortunate position you’re in, to be able to assist another. At the very least you’ll also get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
So the moral of this blog is to Give. Give authentically, honestly, assist others, share great ideas, listen earnestly, support great causes, connect people, lend a hand, enjoy success through others. All of these activities will give you so much more than just the “warm and fuzzies”; they will assist you greatly on your journey to finding meaningful success and happiness.
*Research is detailed in Adam Grants fantastic book, ‘Give & Take’ – an awesome book I’d highly recommend.
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