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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Give More Than You Get

Comments (19)

Yesterday, I sent a note requesting something to a long time friend of mine who is an exec at a fast growing tech company.  I’m a tiny investor – not on the board – but we are long time friends who have done a lot for each other in the past.  My friend is extremely busy so I try to be careful with his time and limit my requests for help.

About six months ago we had a conversation in which he said something profound to me.  The quote that stuck with me was something like “every single person I’ve ever met has called me in the past three months and asked me for something.  If I add up all the requests, it’s something like 200 year of work that I now have to do that has little to nothing to do with what I’m trying to get done.”

During that conversation I decided that I never wanted to be “one of those guys” that always asked for something.  My general life philosophy has always been to “give more than I get” and hope good karma comes back my way over time.

Shortly after I sent the email request yesterday, I thought of this conversation.  I sent a separate note to make sure I wasn’t “one of those guys” (confirmed quickly by my friend) but it still caused me to think about the balance of give vs. get in my world – at least enough to write this post to (a) remind me to keep thinking about it and (b) encourage everyone out there to think about it also.

And – for all of you that live by this creed – thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/johnbelo @johnbelo

    I completely agree with your philosophy and I've used it several times. It never failed to give me something in return – even if it's just to learn another lesson in life. While I can understand that people are often busy, there should always be space in their lives for the web of interconnectedness that supports them through life, professional or otherwise.

    • http://dedenm06.student.ipb.ac.id deden

      that right…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/lori3679 Lori

    From what you've shared on your blog over the years, you definitely give generously, Brad. (I can't comment on the "getting" part since I have no idea how lucrative your business dealings have been.) From mentoring to philanthropy, you give a lot of yourself, investing your time and funding in people and ideas that make good sense. People Making a Difference (PMD), the charities and their clients we help, and our volunteers have really benefited–I've even adopted some of your approaches, scheduling a "random" meeting per month when I don't know what will come of it but know it could be interesting and that I can at least be helpful to the person requesting the meeting. Thank you, and may good karma flow your way!

  • Ran

    I tried but my bank manager called…..

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/micah105 micah

    What has always annoyed me about this concept is that people that truly give more than they get dont spend much time weighing the two sides, because there are not two sides to the equation. Giving and getting should never be connected.

    Innate givers have an internal list that goes "shit, I just asked this dude for something, I need to remember that." And another list–that is always blank–that is the list of people that person has helped. (Why blank? Because there is no "keeping track." People ask for help, and it is given freely when appropriate AND not given when not appropriate. It just is what it is.)

    Also, people that truly give more than they receive love the giving. The giving is done because its the right thing to do, not because there is some hope for future payback.

    Not to sound ass-kissy, but having known you as I do Brad, thats the way you live your life. You give without expectation of return.

    Im guessing you will get a bunch of comments that are "Yeah, dude, way to call it. Im all about giving more than I get." But, giving, with any expectation attached to it is not giving, its delayed getting.

    "Giving more than you get" implies the weighing of both sides. Just give without expectation. Just get without requirement. Dont tie the two together. It'll work itself out appropriately.

    • StartupTrekTV

      I agree with micah, there is something out of whack here. Givers don't worry about getting; but i'd take it a step further.

      My observation is that Brad's long-time friend, as great as he/she probably is, is out of alignment with the fundamental "give and take", or ebb and flow of business relationships. This person seems to be calculating, in an overt fashion, some kind of return on every favor granted, or action taken in a business relationship. That is not how it's supposed to work! There is "quid quo pro"; but you aren't supposed to have to think about it so hard; it just works – when it does. When it doesn't you are very likely doing something wrong.

      So i submit that this person is probably failing and has chosen to blame other people. Wherein the problem, is likely within their own behavior. And they are choosing to blame others, instead of face up to the problem, which lies within their own control.

      As evidence, they have even made their own friend Brad feel guilty/bad – one of the most fun, generous, and thoughtful persons in the venture capital industry.

      Case closed!

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

        Steve. while your hypothesis may be correct, my friend actually responded immediately to my email with “Don't ever think about it” – basically confirming your assertion of good behavior while refuting your hypothesis that he is a bad behavior. In this particular case, this person wasn't making me feel bad, or behaving in any inappropriate way. I take completely responsibility for my feelings!

  • http://twitter.com/jane096 @jane096

    I"m going on this path. Sincerely giving can be just another level of thinking out

  • http://www.edhardysclothing.uk.com/Bags/ ed hardy bags

    Nice post. This post is different from what I read on most blog. And it have so many valuable things to learn. Thank you for your sharing!

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/tcvivek Vivek Wadhwa

    Brad, this is why I hold you in such high regard. Very few people understand the value of giving. It is all about Karma and doing good for the world.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/deva_hazari2084 Deva Hazarika

    Great comment from Micah. There's a special breed of the get more than give person that really gets my goat. That's the person who's always "too busy" to help, but never too busy to ask. They don't last long w/ me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bussgang Jeff Bussgang

    Brad – you are absolutely one of those people. I will never forget how incredibly generous you were with your time when you gave me such valuable, thoughtful feedback on my book. And you never made me feel like it was a quid pro quo – you simply gave. I really appreciated it and will forever be in your debt. And I think Micah's point is consistent with how you are – you don't do it for the calculus, you just give because you're generous in spirit. Thanks again!

  • http://www.miccostumes.com/ miccostumes

    thanks for sharing, really useful.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/paramendra paramendra

    A lot of people struggle with the concept.

  • http://yohan06.student.ipb.ac.id yohan

    nice info, thank you :)

  • http://www.americanvanlines.com/ Charlotte Movers

    I agree with your philosophy but lately I've been having a hard time with people that treat your gifts like they are worthless but I guess in the end it doesn't really matter as long as I did what I could.

  • StartupTrekTV

    yeah, Brad i probably mis-read this one. Micah made such an excellent point, I probably shouldn't have detracted from it with another, probably less-thoughtful comment:)

    Certainly, I didn't mean to imply that i have any insight into how you may or may not react to any issue. Heck, I've only met you once and that was a whirlwind business meeting (a one hour interview) in which i was surprised by your comments on just about everything that we discussed:)

    So I was definitely in error if, in my comment implied that i know much of anything of your character, or how you might or might not react to anything. Just sloppy blog comment writing on my part. Happens once in a while:-)

    Hey, you should be spending your time cleaning up the crisis/mess at Standing Cloud, anyway – right? :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/NickOneill Nick ONeill

    Just saw this now Brad but I'm glad we both share a similar attitude. I'm working on a similar post for tomorrow. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Awesome – glad you like it! Hope you are well – it's been a while.

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