Do Nice Guys Finish First or Last?

The age-old question: do nice guys finish first or do they finish last? There’s a ton of debate coming from either side of the fence: some stalwarts campaign for the former while another group devotes themselves to the latter. We are here to put the argument to bed.

Nice guys finish first, AND they finish last. The reason is because, like Adam Grant noted in his bestselling book Give and Take, nice guys are givers—and that’s not always a good thing.

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Givers are people who we generally think of as “good”, and are commonly recognized as those who are willing to dedicate their time, expertise and resources to the benefit of others. However, according to Grant, givers fall into two different types of camps: “otherish” givers and selfless givers.

Grant says “otherish” givers are successful givers. They give using their own interests as a “guide for choosing when, where, how, and to whom you give.” Selfless givers on the other hand are less successful, largely because they “give their time and energy without regard for their own needs.”

Those who give without any sort of filter directing where they should give, ultimately plunge to the bottom, and those who give with intention rise to the top. So, as you can imagine, the degree of success nice guys experience depends on which category of “giver” he falls into. But, there’s more to this puzzle than meets the eye.

According to Grant, “Success involves more than just capitalizing on the strengths of giving; it also requires avoiding the pitfalls…If people give away too much…it’s all too easy for them to become pushovers and doormats.”

You can’t become a pushover without someone pushing you. You can’t become a doormat without someone stepping on you. The success of a giver doesn’t rely so much on what type of a giver he is, but rather who they’re giving to. Do the people who receive your good will (receivers) knock you down and walk all over you? Or do they lift you up and return the kindness you’ve shown them?

The network of receivers is a significant factor in whether any giver ends up first or last. For that reason, simply being intentional with who they give to, givers can decrease any negative impact they might otherwise face as a result of their generosity. In other words, as long as they are giving to the right person (or people), they can give as freely as they please without watching how much they give or what they give.

So, if you are a giver, you can protect your charity (and your success) by cleaning house on the company you keep. Here is a list of questions to ask yourself that might help you determine if your receivers are taking you down the path of success.

  1. Does your receiver express consideration or appreciation when receiving from you? Do they push you when you can’t give any more? This is a sign that your receiver does not respect your own needs and priorities.
  2. Does your receiver only come around when he needs something from you? Do you only see him the next time he is looking for help?
  3. Do you have receivers who keep coming back and never seem to get anywhere? This could cause burnout on your end.
  4. Are there receivers in your life that never seem to listen to you, but want your time and advice nonetheless? This often suggests that they are looking for your validation rather than your honest input.

Remember, the people you give to play a large role in determining whether you end up first or last. By all means, continue to be your lovely, giving self, but for your own sake, tidy up your giving-network, and we’ll see you at the top!

What filters have you put in place to make sure your giving does not suck you under? Post your additional advice on our Facebook page!