Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

A few years ago, a famed value investor Mohnish Pabrai sent me a book. I had connected with Mr. Pabrai a decade ago before starting my MBA to get his advice. Since then, every few years I get a book in the mail from Mr. Pabrai. One that I particularly loved and has had a profound impact on me is, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.

The book takes real data across various industries to determine whether “Takers” or “Givers” (and also “Matchers”) end up most successful professionally. It essentially tries to determine whether the saying, “nice guys finish last” is actually accurate. I am sure many of you have wondered, as I have, whether I have to be “a jerk” to professionally succeed? This appeared likely because often times movies and news articles depict rude, cocky people as leaders, CEOs or some hot shot in a particular field. The book explains that givers are individuals who generally help others more than they take from others. Takers are essentially the reverse. And Matchers, as you can image, usually ask something in return every time they do someone a favor (the book provides more color around these categories).

Spoiler alert: based on the data, Givers finished last. They were the ones who were the least successful across various industries. So I guess you need to be greedy to succeed. Nope! Based on the data, Givers were ALSO the most successful, while takers and matchers landed in the middle. There seems to be a fine balance between “giving” too much and just right. Some Givers are just too generous and totally forget about their own ambitions, leading to them never truly advancing in their career. While other Givers know how to balance helping others, with also being focused on their own success and well being.

The book does an amazing job of providing not just theoretical concepts, but details various real life examples of Givers and Takers and how things worked out for them. I found the book inspiring, informative and something I hope more people read.

As someone who has always tried to be a mindful, considerate person and who promotes these concepts to others, I was incredibly glad to discover Give and Take. I wanted to believe that we could be kind and helpful to others and still succeed. I guess nice guys finish first!