Giver or Taker, Producer or Depleter: We All Know Who We Are. (EP. 214)



We may pretend that either we don’t know which sort we are, or that we just know that we are in the good groups–but we all know the truth, whatever that is. One way to determine the truth is to take a look at the five people we spend the most time with, and ask the Giver or Taker and Producer or Depleter questions about them. And be honest; don’t try to skew the answers, knowing where this questioning is going. Once we have the answers about them, we have the answers about ourselves.

That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode. 


Very early in my Silicon Valley career, I became the department head of two combined departments in a publicly held software company, totalling about 45 people. The company was shuddering its way through layoffs, and the other department head had been sacked. In my third week in this position, I was given the order to lay off 40% of the combined department. I was told that it needed to be done at the close of business that Friday, and that the laid off personnel would be given severance packets. There were no other instructions.


Even though everyone was expecting a serious round of layoffs, I rejected the idea of telling the 20 people one-by-one starting Friday at 5, with the rumors about who was next spreading like wildfire after the second or third firing. I decided to put each group in separate meeting rooms, with those to be laid off in one room, and the others in another. I first went to the room with the survivors, made a quick announcement saying that they were safe, and that I would be back in a moment to answer questions. The second I walked into the room with those to be laid off, I knew that they knew. Each person had been looking around the room to see who else was there. And that’s all they needed to know to determine which group they were in. Before I made my announcement, before I even walked into the room, everyone there had already come to grips with what was happening to them. 

All of us know which group we are in. All we have to do is look around.

Today’s Key Point: If we don’t like where we are, we can fix it. Okay, Will, I believe that. How?

Make a decision. There is real power in making a decision. Charles Lindbergh, one of the greatest aviation heroes of his time, made the decision that he was going to be the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic. When he awoke the next morning, he was filled with aggressive doubts. I am a broke US Mail pilot, flying WWI vintage biplanes. There are well-funded organizations already underway with multi-engine aircraft with experienced crews already training to compete for the prestigious Orteig Award and $25K cash prize. (Fancy money then.) Am I nuts?

So, did he quit? Did he say that he would go forward if he was miraculously given a huge sum of money and a new Ford Trimotor aircraft? No. He settled down as soon as he remembered that he had made a decision to be the first. And in 1927, he was. When he landed in Paris, he was greeted by a crowd of 200K; in New York City, he was celebrated by 4M. The lesson here is the power of making a decision and sticking to it. 

Lindberg’s decision was easy. Implementing it, making it happen, was hard. As it is with anything at all worthwhile in life. Life, correctly, is hard. 

Now to specifics, first make a decision to be more of a giver, to be more of a producer. That part is simple. Implementing this decision will be hard. The rules of life are simple. Implementing them is hard. 

This bears repeating: The rules of life are simple. Implementing them is hard. 

We all learn more from the hard times than we do from the easy times. I don’t know anyone for whom that is not true. Do you? And with those hard times, we can grow and strengthen ourselves to lead stronger, happier and better lives. Yes, I did say “happier.” There is no conflict between hard and happy, is there? 

We all know that to make a muscle stronger, we must work it, and the harder we work it, the stronger it becomes. Our minds are like muscles; we must work them to make them stronger, and the harder we work them, the stronger they become.

It is only when we push ourselves, mentally and/or physically, that we improve, get stronger, and further prepare ourselves for leading our best lives. The corollary is also true: When we don’t challenge ourselves, nothing gets better. If fact, things get worse. These physical and mental muscles will atrophy. And we get a touch lazy in the process.

Life is bad enough when we don’t challenge ourselves, when we don’t take responsibility for getting through the hard times. We are hurting ourselves and those around us, but that is all. It is far worse when powerful voices in leadership tell us that if things are hard, that not only is it proof that things are unfair, but that someone else is responsible for getting us through the hard bits. Why is it their responsibility? Because they are the ones who made it hard for us in the first place. That’s the reason that identity politics were dreamed up and are so often in the news. The idea is to relieve certain groups, those victimized by other groups, of responsibility while placing the blame and the responsibility on other groups. The responsibility always lies with us. And it starts with making the right decisions.

Second, let’s learn and grow from the process of learning how to give and produce more. Let’s look for opportunities to give and produce. Let’s find ways to associate with those who do. And we will grow and expand as contributing humans as we go along. It will be hard, but so well worth it.


As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple, Google, or Stitcher.

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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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