Mar 16, 2023 - Economy

Finish Line: Gratitude attitude

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Political reporter Jonathan Swan, in his farewell Q & A with our Axios staff, said the best piece of advice he'd ever received was that you get back everything — and more — if you give it away.

  • Swan, a rare media star whose generosity grew in proportion to his stardom, was talking about sharing sources, bylines and reporting advice.

Why it matters: The older I get, the more certain I am this applies to every aspect of life — particularly work. The more you give and serve others, the more you benefit and get ahead.

This cuts against the popular narratives of the "great man" — the daring but often uncaring entrepreneur or billionaire glass-breaker.

  • There's often an assumption you need a cutthroat edge or I-don't-give-a-rip abandon to do big things fast.

Reality check: I'm not suggesting great success flows from being soft or merely generous. But everyone should aspire to be both great and generous — the twin wins.

When I think of our most talented yet generous colleagues — editor-in-chief Sara Kehaulani Goo, or media trends expert Sara Fischer, or Mia Vallo, our head of marketing and growth — they tend to be exceptionally ambitious, workaholics and hyper-competitive.

  • But they give to others what was given to them. And they don't assume they are spectacularly special just because they are spectacularly talented.

Some ways to put this into practice:

  1. Pay it forward. Look for daily opportunities to share your wisdom, secrets and life hacks. It's ludicrous to assume this disadvantages you. It makes people cheer for you.
  2. Get over yourself. There's a 99.9% chance you aren't Thomas Edison or Mother Teresa. Stop thinking you're better than other people because your specific skill brought you success. Flip the script: Be grateful for your breaks. Enjoy success — and share it with others with reckless abandon.
  3. Small things matter. Few people inspire others with heroic words or deeds. But small things to you ... are big things to others. A coffee with a new colleague. A note of encouragement. In-the-moment advice. A gentle correction or instruction. A simple thank you.
  4. Be intentional. Thank, respect and serve people in your organization who are newer than you. We naturally suck up. But today’s intern could be tomorrow's boss.
  5. Pass it on. Talk to others about how gratitude helps them get ahead. If you see an opportunity to gently rein in an ego gone wild, take it.
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