CREDIT: Nushmia Khan
Aiding others with their problems makes you better at solving your own, the Wharton professor says.
If you’ve ever felt like you stand to lose by being overly generous with your time and skills, Wharton Professor Adam Grant has a story that might change your mind.
About 20 years ago, when Kat Cole turned 15, she started working two jobs in order to save up for college. Cole’s days became particularly busy at her restaurant job. When a chef didn’t show up, she’d run back into the kitchen and cook. And when a manager quit, she took over organizing employees’ work schedules, Grant says.
Cole remained equally willing to pitch in whenever she was needed as she continued working in college. Unfortunately, it was to her detriment, since her busy schedule eventually caused her to fail out of school.
“If the story ended there, we could say giving is dangerous. And it is,” Grant concedes.
But Cole’s luck changed when she was finally recognized for her skills. A manager approached Cole when she was 19 years old and asked if she’d be interested in helping to open a restaurant overseas.
“She has less experience and less education than every other candidate. But she gets the job because she is the only person who has worked every single job in that restaurant,” Grant says.
Within the next few years, Cole opens restaurants in Australia, Asia, Latin America and then Africa. And finally, at age 32, she becomes the president of a billion dollar brand: Cinnabon.
“It was wildly inefficient in the short run for her to be cooking and organizing schedules. But in the long run, those acts of helping accumulated to make her more qualified for her job,” Grant explains.
“The time you spend helping other people solve their problems actually makes you better at solving your own — but that doesn’t always happen right away,” he concludes.
For more on the benefits of being a giver, check out the video below.