I liked this interview with Wharton Prof. Adam Grant a lot.
Grant’s theory is that generosity (esp with your time and knowledge, the two most valuable commodities of the information age) is a key factor in success. Besides that, it just feels good. I’ve always tried to give back, professionally – by talking to law students just starting out in their careers, or comparing notes and ideas with other in house lawyers with whom I share common interests. I also try to prioritize these types of interactions. Especially when I used to bill by the hour – time to spend “just helping” can easily fall to the bottom of a to-do list.
Knowing how eager to help I, and many others, are, it’s surprising how little people seem to ask for help or advice. An interesting observation Grant makes is that those who are the most generous with their time also happen to be those at the top (or very bottom) of their chosen fields. From this, you can infer that being generous contributes to success (or abject failure). To me, it also means that the most successful people in a field are probably also the ones who are most willing to help. It’s a good thought to keep in mind the next time I think about reaching out to that prominent someone who might be a good resource. Rather than being aloof and unapproachable because of their success, there’s a good chance they’re just the opposite.
Thanks to my friend and co-Automattician Sara Rosso for featuring the interview with Adam Grant in her monthly email newsletter, where I found the link. Sara’s got a really great eye for interesting stuff to read on the web. Check out (and subscribe to!) her newsletter here.