Givers vs Takers – who succeeds most in life?

Remember how the Buddha said that there are 4 types of enemies disguised as friends:

  1. The Taker
  2. The Empty Talker – are all just talk but don’t come through what they say
  3. The Flatterer
  4. The Bad Influence

So you’ve got to be careful with these people and keep them at a distance – otherwise, they’ll ruin your life.

See there are givers and takers in life.  This TED talk talks about how just 1 Taker can have a negative influence several times the good influence of givers – thus proving the Buddha’s point.

See in life, in general, in human interactions – you want to give a little bit more than you take.


Because if you imagine it like a bank, you want to deposit into the bank more than you withdraw.  This way, the good karma that you deposit in gradually accumulates and you always have a surplus of good karma from which to draw upon – if you ever need it.

You can’t just always give either – so don’t be too attached to that idea.  Because sometimes, you’ve got to also receive – so that you can build yourself up – so that you would be in a position to do more later, to be of greater benefit later – to be able to give more later.

So sometimes, you’ve got to take what you need – take what you need such that you can use what you’ve taken to be of the greatest benefit later.

One example of this would be when you’re in high school or university – you take the best lessons you can learn, using the best resources – internet, textbooks, go to the best schools that you can, seek out knowledge from the best teachers, invest in yourself – don’t necessarily go cheap on your education.  Soak it all up.  Take it all in so that you can learn the best that you can – so that your skills once you’ve graduated can be of the most benefit to the world!

Anyway, this TED talk goes into some research on givers vs takers and also matchers – people who match their give an take equally.  It also shows that perhaps the most important people to look out for (because they can easily fall under the radar):

  1. The most undervalued people are the disagreeable givers – the ones who have a gruff exterior but underneath, want the best for you.  But they don’t necessarily care about external appearances – so their grumpy exteriors may turn people off them on first impressions.
  2. The agreeable takers – these are the same as the Flatterers that the Buddha was talking about!  These people are nice to your face – even charming you to the point of you thinking that they are genuinely wonderful people!  They say nice things to you to soften you up unknowingly – and then turn around to stab you in the back when you’re not looking!

Adam Grant’s question to weed out the agreeable takers would be to ask the question:  Give me the name of at least 4 people whose careers you have fundamentally improved – and then listen to the answer to see the status of the people they list:

  • Takers will list people with higher status or more influential than them – because they’re good at kissing up and then kicking down.
  • Givers are more likely to list people who may not be able to benefit them at all – so these people could be nobodies in the scheme of things and have a lower status.  So you can see the character of a person why how they treat the waiter or the cleaner – how they treat nobodies.

So to all you employers out there, this is a good question to have in your toolbox!

His question relates to the corporate working world – but you can probably adapt it to different scenarios – like ask yourself – which 4 people in your life have you made a positive difference to, made a lasting impact on their life.


  1. Weed Takers out
  2. Protect Givers from Burnout:
    • Make it safe for them to ask for help
    • To teach them that they don’t just need to keep helping others out all the time but it’s also okay for them to pursue their own goals