Before we get started: if you have read The Go-Giver and enjoyed it, then I would not recommend reading any more of what I have to say. There is something to be said for letting people enjoy what they enjoy and refraining from pointing out issues.
To illustrate the point: one time my brother and I were having a conversation about a famous actress, who (for the purpose of anonymity) we will refer to as “Shmulia Kroberts.” After I pointed out that Shmulia was very pretty, my brother waited a moment, cocked his head to the side, squinted his eyes at the TV, and added his thoughts on the subject of Shmulia.
“…have you noticed her mouth is significantly wider than her lips?”
I thought it was the weirdest thing he could have said in that moment, but I still listened.
I wish I hadn’t. For the next five years every time I saw Shmulia on the big screen, I couldn’t see anything except that her mouth did, in fact, appear to extend past the end of her lips. Somehow my brother had managed to ruin Shmulia for me just by speaking words. Eventually I got over it.
So, again, if you enjoy the Go-Giver and think it’s great, I’m going to discourage you from continuing on. I’ve got a book review on a Mister Rogers Autobiography that you might like…
Still here? Well then let’s talk for real about this book.
First off, The Go-Giver has a great title. Just hearing it invites the question: “Go-Giver? What’s that? Is that like a Go-Getter that gives?” It’s also worth pointing out that the Go-Giver, being a brand new, previously unclaimed collection of letters is excellent for branding and having the name stick in your head when you someone say “Have you read the Go-Giver?” I’m sure if you Google “go-giver” you will get the book or the workshops offered by the authors of the book as the first result.
Second, the book describes itself as a parable. Coming from a religious background, I’m familiar with a parable, which is a story that takes elements that are known to the listener and uses them to tell a story that has symbolic interpretations for some kind of moral lesson. I wouldn’t really say that the story is symbolic as much as it is simply fictional, but more on that later.
Third, the concepts of the book are positive ones, for the most part. You should strive to provide more value. You should serve others and put them first. however, I would say that some of these ideas get a little lost in the device that the book uses to present its concepts.
The Go-Giver delivers its message through the story of a young salesman who feels the pressure of his position and reaches out to a big time consultant who shows him a better way. The consultant is a legendary businessman and everyone has heard of him except, somehow, the young man. When the young salesman calls for help, the legendary businessman would love to help him out. In fact, there is a Saturday appointment available.
The legendary businessman, who I assume is still working a job, somehow has all the time in the world for the young salesman and he insists there will be no charge for his time.
Over the next week, the legendary consultant takes the main character through a series of lunch meetings to introduce him to former protégés of the consultant, each one illustrating a different aspect of the Go-Giver. It’s kind of like the three spirits in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol for the Amway crowd. Every time it happens, the salesman is waiting to meet the protégé and passes the time in conversation with someone else, and every time it turns out that the person he was talking to is actually the protégé.
Did I mention that every last one of the protégés has made at least $100 million? Because the book does. Often. Even though the book explicitly espouses the ideals of giving for the sake of giving, the Go-Giver does a horrible job being subtle about the idea that everyone who follows the principles of the Go-Giver is a multi-millionaire who gets to spend their day doing whatever they want. Go-Givers are loved by all and they get standing ovations whenever they want them. When a Go-Giver tells a joke, it always lands with uproarious laughter.
Actually, it’s not really all of the proteges who have made $100 million. On the last day, the young salesman and legendary consultant are sitting there waiting for the last protégé to appear when the legendary consultant reveals to the young salesman that the young salesman was really the last protégé all along.
Finally, after a week of learning the concepts of the Go-Giver, the young salesman returns to his office, he gets a phone call that fixes all of his business-related problems. One phone call.
Look, I realize that some people might enjoy this book. There has to be somebody out there who read this book and turned their life around. I’m not trying to discount that. However, I have heard a lot of stories of this book is being recommended as a conversational prelude to get people on the hook for a larger conversation about multi-level marketing, so look out for that…
I’m not really offended by the ideas of the book itself other than the implication that it’s a formula for financial success. The true crime of the Go-Giver is not that it tells people to be good to other people. Nobody can really disagree that we should all be kinder.
The true crime of the Go-Giver is bad storytelling.
It’s not really a parable. It’s not practical advice for how to be giving in a world that encourages people to be selfish. The book just sits there and lazily solves its own problems by the fact that the author controls the outcomes.
On a positive note, there are books out there that can lead you to treat others more kindly that will also lead to better business results and maybe even some personal feelings of success. I highly recommend How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s truly one of those books that everyone should read. Also, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People covers a lot of ground on treating others with respect to mutual benefit. Finally, if you’re looking for a much better book about serving others in business in a way that will help your business, you should reading Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.
If you think I should Go-Give this book another chance, just let me know on Twitter, or reach out to me on Instagram. I’d love to have your recommendations for more books since I’m planning on reading more than 100 books this year.
I you want to see my progress, just check out revengemethod.com.
Keep it real.
The Go-Giver, Expanded Edition: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann
“Most people just laugh when they hear that the secret to success is giving…. Then again, most people are nowhere near as successful as they wish they were.” The Go-Giver tells the story of an ambitious young man named Joe who yearns for success. Joe is a true go-getter, though sometimes he feels as if the harder and faster he works, the further away his goals seem to be. Desperate to land a key sale at the end of a bad quarter, he seeks advice from the enigmatic Pindar, a legendary consultant referred to by his many devotees simply as the Chairman.
Over the next week, Pindar introduces Joe to a series of “go-givers”: a restaurateur, a CEO, a financial adviser, a real estate broker, and the “Connector” who brought them all together. Pindar’s friends teach Joe the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success and help him open himself up to the power of giving. Joe learns that changing his focus from getting to giving – putting others’ interests first and continually adding value to their lives – ultimately leads to unexpected returns.
Imparted with wit and grace, The Go-Giver is a classic best seller that brings to life the old proverb “give and you shall receive.” Nearly a decade since its original publication, the term “go-giver” has become shorthand for a defining set of values embraced by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Today, this timeless story continues to help its readers and listeners find fulfillment and greater success in business, in their personal lives, and in their communities. This expanded edition includes the text of the original business parable, a new introduction, a discussion guide, and a Q&A with the authors.