Real Talk

Give and Take

This morning I woke up to my terrible alarm clock blaring and hit snooze, effectively making it impossible for me to go to the gym before work. (Impossible might be a strong word but I do not like to smell like a foot and shower after exercising and getting out of bed any time after 5:30am makes it impractical for me to rush through a work out, shower, eat, and get to work on time.) Anyway, since I woke up all of 30 minutes later, equally as groggy, I decided I needed to still be productive with my morning so I scrolled through TEDtalks and stumbled upon this gem:

This is only 13 minutes long, however if you don’t have the time, you can always read the transcript.

Adam Grant talks about the concept of the giver in the workplace and how this impacts the overall company. The concept of givers and takers stems far beyond the workplace and can be applied to all of life. This particular statement struck me hard:

Givers are often sacrificing themselves…they make their organizations better…the more often people are helping and sharing their knowledge and providing mentoring, the better organizations do on every metric we can measure: higher profits, customer satisfaction, employee retention – even lower operating expenses. So givers spend a lot of time trying to help other people and improve the team, and then, unfortunately, they suffer along the way.


unfortunately, they suffer along the way… well, shit, that doesn’t sound promising for me, now does it??

I know who I am and I have always held pride in my unwavering dedication to others but this statement here just made me freeze. If I am being completely honest with myself I know I let myself get taken advantage of in the majority of relationships I have made academically, professionally, and personally. If you need something and I have the means to help you, I will 99% of the time do whatever it is. I realize this wears a person down and yes, here I am, tired AF and at a standstill in life. Since leaving med school I have spent a lot of time introspectively analyzing who I am and why it seems that everything keeps crumbling in front of me while I am surrounded by people who seem to flourish. (I know I previously said I was okay with accepting my failure and normalizing it as many people leave the doctoral pursuit life, but let’s be real, I may be able to grasp the concept of being okay with it but that doesn’t mean that every day I am totally fine and unscathed from this major life event.)

As Grant discusses, givers often find themselves either in the bottom portion or the top of academic settings like medical school. And here I find that I was definitely someone that was massively influenced by location and the people I surrounded myself with. There are so many factors outside of knowledge digestion that take place in higher academia. The people you surround yourself with can make a massive impact. I personally went through having 7 different roommates during a very short period of time. I know that might sound extreme but it was because my initial set of of roommates and I really did not click at all, like WW3 up in that apartment did not click, and I moved out at the end of the first semester into an apartment with students that were in their last term, so I had to replace them when they left. Of all of these people I lived with, I still hold strongly onto only 1 of them. She is one of the biggest supporters in my life and I will be eternally grateful that I met her. I’d like to think she’s what Grant is calling a matcher, the perfect combination of understanding that sometimes you need to take for yourself but that you need to balance and also give. I truly think she is an amazing person but I will stop talking about her because I know she will read this and get really embarrassed by how much I love her, haha. On the other side, when she left I replaced her with new roommates that I thought were the right people to live with but totally were not at all. I found myself spending less and less time in my own apartment (which, might I add, was solely mine and I rented out the extra rooms because what the heck did I need 3 rooms for by myself?). I was less productive because I was constantly being distracted by external things but, of course, I gave them my full attention because they were things that were important to my friend. (note: this is why you shouldn’t live with your friends)

The first thing that’s really critical is to recognize that givers are your most valuable people, but if they’re not careful, they burn out. So you have to protect the givers in your midst.

I definitely had my handful of people I went to in my own times of need and was able to find that they could all help, but once again, all matchers. And this is definitely a trend I am realizing in retrospect. The people I believe were most successful in that lifestyle were the matchers. In my last months of school I found a lot of solace in professors that thought the situation I had found myself in was absolutely absurd and since having left they are people who I have kept in contact with and are happy to help me move beyond that place but also told me to definitely find a different type of institute because that was clearly not the setting for me. But how do I become a matcher? I don’t know. Awareness is probably the biggest key  because Grant states that “successful givers…recognize that it’s OK to be a receiver too.” That’s a pretty obvious concept, right? But not necessarily something easy to adapt to, especially if you are trying to change the past 25 years of how you conducted yourself as a human being.

Anyway, now that I am overly aware of myself and feeling particularly vulnerable but also relieved to get this entire thought process off my chest, I will leave you with this lovely little snippet of “The Sunscreen Speech” that I believe is a major proponent of why I am the way that I am:

Live in New York City once,
but leave before it makes you hard.
Live in Northern California once,
but leave before it makes you soft.

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