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In Susan Dominus’ New York Times article featuring Adam Grant, the 31-year old Wharton School professor of organizational psychology, she poses the question: “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?” Not really a fan of the message that the title conveys (giving to get) but I am a huge fan of Grant and the example he sets for us all.

The bulk of the article focuses on the sheer amount of giving that Grant integrates into his daily life. Mainly with his students but really to anyone who comes along asking for help, whether he knows them or not.

In addition to his regular work load, he often responds to more than 200 emails a day, writes over 100 letters of recommendation a year, and sets aside four-hour blocks of time each week to counsel any student who may need help. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Giving, it seems, is Grant’s purpose.

What makes him different from most of us? He never says no to a request for help. Ever. It seems there is no end to his giving.

If this were any other professional, it may not have piqued my interest quite as much. But because Grant’s field of expertise is the study of efficiency and productivity in the workplace, one naturally takes a closer look at how he structures his own life.

For Grant, helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity… The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.

I just love this because it shows that one of the best things we can do is help one another. Which should be obvious, right? But how many of us feel we don’t have time? How many of us are already overwhelmed with all our duties? Working, taking care of our families, being a good friend, a good spouse or partner, exercising, maintaining a household, paying bills, and somewhere in there, factoring in a little fun. But this article proves that incorporating time for service actually enhances all the other facets of our lives and it’s worth taking the time to do so.

That’s what I think Dominus meant with the title of this article. Correlating giving with levels of success.

Every time we give, we receive. But I think we can all agree it’s best to give without the expectation of receiving. To give from the heart. Which is really all Grant is doing. Giving in the way he feels called.

I especially love the study he did as a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s fund-raising call center. The failure rate for callers was around 93% and morale was very low because of the amount of rejection the employees endured. Well, Grant had the idea of bringing in scholarship recipients to speak with the callers to show them the results of their efforts.

A month after the testimonial, the workers were spending 142 percent more time on the phone and bringing in 171 percent more revenue, even though they were using the same script. In a subsequent study, the revenues soared by more than 400 percent. Even simply showing the callers letters from grateful recipients was found to increase their fund-raising draws.

Simply put, when we connect giving with a sense of purpose, we deepen our sense of fulfillment and increase our productivity. Hence, becoming more successful in every sense of the word.

As we enter this season of giving, what are some ways in which you feel called to give? How can you take that spirit of giving into the new year? What are some ways you’re already giving to those around you? If you read the full article, what was your takeaway? Would love to hear your thoughts so do share. 🙂

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