Adam Grant, in his book “Give and Take” identifies people in three classifications: Givers, Takers and Matchers (or people who carefully balance their Givings with Takings so that everything comes out fair.)
In his studies of Medical Students, Salespeople and Engineers, he found that in all three careers that the category of people who consistently led the bottom of the pack in grades or productivity were the people who would self identify as consistently giving their time to help others succeed.
Funny enough, he also found that in all three careers that the category of people who consistently led the top of the pack in grades or productivity were once again the people who would self identify as consistent givers. The middle was made up of people identified as takers as well as the more common variety of people, matchers.
The obvious question is “What differentiates the givers at the top and the givers at the bottom?” I don’t want to short change the book by offering a simple answer, or to try to summarize it, because Grant’s conclusions are insightful and helpful in that they offer strategies and examples across a number of different experiences. But if I were to try to summarize, I’d use Grant’s own words and offer two strategies for success:
“People who maintain equilibrium between benefiting themselves and others can achieve significant increases in their happiness and life satisfaction.”
Practically, what does this mean for the Scouting community? Help other people at all times, but strive to do so in ways that are meaningful to us. I came across this personally once when I was volunteering for an organization in Orlando. I showed up dressed to pick up trash, cut the grass around the facility, where ever they needed. Halfway through the day I was talking to the Director about what I did for a living (Information Technology), he chastised me in a kind way. He said he can get almost any volunteer to perform unskilled labor, but they had a bunch of computers that had been broken for a long time, why wouldn’t I volunteer with an eye towards my skill set?
I watch our Scouts do the same thing. How many benches or trails do our Eagle Candidates create when they have no passion for construction? What better avenue for a technical minded scout than to design a website for a non-profit or a musically gifted scout to organize a benefit concert?
“Avoid the Doormat Effect”
As a volunteer, you’ve heard the joke “Never look someone from District in the eyes” with the assumption that this means you will be volunteered for a position. Grant tells us that as givers, we have to guard against that and focus on placing boundaries and qualifications on when, where and who we’ll help. Yes, we’ll help other people at all times, but if Grant would advise us, he’d say that by placing boundaries and qualifications on the help we give or letting other people help, we in turn become able to help more people, more often to a greater degree than ever before.