Be a Giver

By- Fran Tarkenton

Looking over my years in football and business, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern. The most successful coaches and the best business owners and entrepreneurs had a lot of common traits. Some of them are things you might expect, like putting in hard work. But one that might surprise some people is that all of the great leaders I’ve been around were, at heart, givers.

What does that mean? For the past year or so, I’ve been closely following the work of Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of Business who specializes in organizational psychology. His research in particular has looked at the success of people he classifies as “givers”—people who give to others without the expectation of immediate gain. They are contrasted with “takers,” who try to “win” in every exchange, and “matchers” who try to give to an equal extent to what they get. To summarize parts of what he found, people who fall into the Giver category have a greater chance of achieving the highest levels of success, contrary to the expectations of those who think only the most selfish push and claw their way to the top.

After reading about his research, I was fascinated. I reached out to him (and in true giver fashion, he responded right away!) and we talked first over the phone, and then he even came by our offices when he was in Atlanta. Talking with him got me thinking about my coaches, mentors, and partners. I realized that all of the best coaches and business people I’d been around had been givers—even the ones you might not expect at first. A lot of people think of Vince Lombardi for the “Winning is the only thing” mentality, but when I was around him at Pro Bowls, he was incredibly giving of his time and knowledge, freely sharing with me (a competitor!) about football and quarterbacking. Bud Grant, my coach in Minnesota, was a great giver. My mentor Sam Walton was a giver. And my mission in life and business is to be a giver.

I think this emphasis on giving is lost in many businesses and with many people. The focus on the bottom line and money as the measure of success is shortsighted, however. The mission of a business, I believe, is to help people—it’s not to make money. And in life, your mission should be to help people in whatever ways you can. That is a sustainable mission.

These are some of the oldest lessons in the world; putting others first before yourself is something we all learned as children. But do we really live it? Every day? Find ways to give to others, to provide value to people. When we do that, it’s amazing what we can achieve.

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Robert Qualls
6 years ago

I appreciate Fran’s comments on Mr. Lombardi greatly. You didn’t have to be a Packer fan to admire him. Nor do you have to have been a Vikings fan to admire Fran!

Don Zimmerman
6 years ago

Fran, thank you very much for taking time to write this article. It is a great reminder of how we should live our lives putting others first. It reminds me of what Jesus said “Love your neighbors as you love yourself.”

Brent E. Frazier
6 years ago

What a great news article by Mr. Tarkenton, and what he is stating is scriptural. In the society of which we now live, much of the giving aspect in every day life has been lost, although there are some people who are extreme givers who are always caring for others first. These people in life and business can be spotted by the joy in their life and the smile on their face. They are always thinking of how to make the world a better place. If more people could accomplish this trait, it would spread like wildfire and many would… Read more »

Robert Pope
6 years ago

Thank you for this article. It was encouraging. I am in small business and though difficult as it is and has been, I have always had a philosophy of helping others. I read a book by Zig Ziggler that started me thinking years age. He said something like if you focus on what the others need you will get all you need. And he was right. Thanks for the article.

John H.
6 years ago

Another great article and valuable insight by Fran Tarkenton!

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