Know Thyself: The Art of Giving & Taking

Donovan Vogel
6 min readJan 25, 2017


“Leadership is a daily practice. The more we practice working to consider the lives of others, even if it comes at the expense of our interests, the better we get at it. Like a muscle, the more we practice leadership the stronger we get. More important, the stronger we get, the stronger those around us become too. It is at this point that the overwhelming challenges we faced as individuals, as if by magic, become simple to solve for the team.” — Simon Sinek

Everybody wants to change the world in some way or another. However, nobody wants to start with themselves. Except for a select few. One day it just clicks for them. They’ve come to realize what’s important to them and what isn’t. These individuals have learned to care less about what other people think of them and more about what they think of themselves. Their self-awareness of how far they’ve come exceeded everyone else’s expectations.

Its funny, we’ve all remembered when we thought things were such a mess that we would never recover. And what do we do? We recover and we smile! We smile because we are truly proud of ourselves and the persons we’ve fought to become. A select few are fighting to become better versions of themselves. Some may say they want to be better givers, not takers.

This simple yet complex philosophy asks, “What can I do for you?” as opposed to “What can you do for me?” We all have moments of giving and taking. Some are stellar and, others well, not so much. Success is wonderful and some could argue it’s a byproduct of giving more than we ask for in return. However, significance and giving our all to others is even better.

If for a second we look into the work and life of Adam Grant, some would be shocked by what he’s been able to accomplish. At the age of 35, he has been recognized as Wharton’s top-rated teacher for five straight years, and as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers. Maybe I’ll sneak down to the University of Pennsylvania’s campus to drop in on one of his classes this spring semester!

Adam is the author of two New York Times bestselling books which I’ll have to wait a little longer to read. Give and Take dives deeper into why helping others drives our success. It’s on my list to read as it was suggested to me by a good friend and mentor of mine last year. Needless to say, there’s a few golden nuggets for all of us to take away!

The reason why I can relate so well with Grant’s practical philosophy is because one of the keys to success in life is tirelessly helping others succeed. The challenging part is doing that without burning out. Nonetheless, I truly believe that a day without giving, laughter or a day without love was a day without life. Staying focused on our lifework and on giving selfless service to others is one of the most fulfilling moments we’ll experience on a daily basis. I feel as if this is one of nature’s purest laws.

“You never know where somebody’s going to end up. It’s not just about building our reputation; it really is about being there for other people.”
Adam Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

The tipping point comes whenever we share our wisdom of giving with others. Every experience offers lessons. For example, at first in the world of financial services I felt as if I was taking too much time out of peoples days by talking about things that 1) they didn’t fully understand, 2) their needs were already met by whatever service they were using via a company or institution and 3) they didn’t want to listen to a millennial in his early 20’s. In hindsight, that was a limiting thought process going through my mind and that wasn’t who I really was. I had value to provide to these individuals by giving the knowledge I had obtained in college and in the workplace. The switch was made!

It’s interesting the people we’ll come across in life who align with our value systems. There’s a law out there called the law of averages, some of us are probably already familiar with it. Jim Rohn says, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” We simply have to be careful with who we spend all of our time! At the end of the day, time is more important than any dollar figure we could ever place on anything. Operating from a sense of I’m going to work X amount of hours for $10, $15 or $20 an hour (whatever it is) is a selfish outlook to have. We’re matching the output of work (giving our time) with being rewarded (taking a $ amount) from someone else, our employer. Many people are much more valuable than they’re being given credit for.

Giving and taking goes hand and hand with the law of averages, which is the theory that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes. For far too long we surround ourselves with the wrong crowds and the wrong people. We always believe that the right people will come into our lives for the right reasons. It isn’t until we associate with the right people by giving our time, energy and natural skills that we build our abilities to help and to empower people to achieve the results they’ve been searching for far too long.

Lawyers, consultants, doctors, teachers, salespeople, entrepreneurs and all successful people know that, in order to increase your wins, you’ve also got to increase your loses. When it comes to giving value to people’s lives, intimate relationships, seminars or speeches, we are greatly influenced — whether we like it or not — by those closest to us. It affects our way of thinking, our self-esteem, and our decisions. Of course, everyone is their own person, but research has shown that we’re more affected by our environments than we think. There’s really no disputing that one!

What we put out there in the universe generally does come back to us ten fold, whenever we’re ready for it or not. The hard part is opening ourselves up to be vulnerable to others by sharing our personal experiences and being genuine to others. What I’ve found is that a lot of people struggle with this one. I can speak out of firsthand experience, especially as being a male in todays day and age. I found that one out the hard way and at times I’m still a novice in this sense! At least I’m aware that it’s a weakness of mine that I can eventually turn into a strength. At first we have to set boundaries, and the way we set up those boundaries is by not having them in the first place. Again, learning from our mistakes is key in this process.

Never forget the importance of living with unbridled exhilaration and a sense of giving. Never neglect to see the exquisite beauty in all living things. Today, and this very moment, is a gift. Stay focused on your purpose. The universe will take care of everything else.

In summation of what has already been said, we have to starts inwards before the changes we’re looking to make are present outwards. This is a never ending journey in my opinion and the only way we’ll change the world in a positive sense is by starting with ourselves. A select few have recognized and understand the law of averages and the principles of giving more than we ask for in return, which is why they’ll go incredibly far in life. By no means are we perfect nor do I think anyone should strive for perfection.

Constant and never ending improvement, less taking and more giving will strengthen our connections, unify us as a whole and allow many more to share a common vision. Finally, always remember that what lies behind you and what lies in front of you is nothing when compared to what lies within you. I genuinely hope this weeks post was helpful for those of you reading and you’re out there crushing the first month of the new year. Keep raising your lids!

My Very Best,

Donovan Vogel



Donovan Vogel

Philadelphia based teaching financial literacy | Prospering all other hours | Writer | Lifter | Reader | Traveler | Freedom & Wellness