“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.”

This quote, from the front jacket of best-selling networking book The Go-Giver, pretty much sums up the storyline of this quick 127-page read.  We’re introduced to an ambitious young fellow named Joe who is trying to get ahead in some sort of sales-related career, but is struggling to hit his numbers.  He tries working harder.  He tries using every form of persuasion he can think of to convince customers to buy from him.  And ultimately, just when he’s ready to give up, one of his co-workers offers to introduce him to a mysterious character named the “Old Man” who apparently has some sort of secret advice to offer that inviteably leads people to become wildly successful in life and business.  Joe, out of options, reaches out to this individual for help — grudgingly — and then is whisked through a week’s worth of powerful “lessons” around the idea that achieving success in life is ultimately based how freely one gives back to the people around them.

Here are the book’s five main principles:

#1. The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment
#2. The Law of Compensation:
Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them
#3. The Law of Influence:
Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first
#4. The Law of Authenticity:
The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself
#5. The Law of Receptivity:
The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving

So given all this, would I recommend this book to readers of mine who are going through career transition?  It depends.  On one hand, there’s no question that The Go-Giver is devoted to a very important principle of job hunting, career, and (arguably) life success, which is the concept of reciprocal win/win networking.  And since quite a few people still don’t seem to understand this concept, or practice it effectively, any additional inspiration a book like this might provide could turn out to be an excellent thing.  The flip side?  Well, as an avid consumer of networking books, I have a few minor quibbles about The Go-Giver that I just can’t get past — and that would lead me to classify the book as a “nice-to-read” title instead of a “must-read” classic.

For starters, I’m afraid to report that the format of the book feels a little shopworn.  The “young man meets old man who gives him the secrets of life” parable has just been used too many times lately, by too many authors, to get these kinds of points across.  After a parade of best-sellers ranging from Who Moved My Cheese? to Peaks & Valleys to Be the Hero to God’s Debris that follow almost the exact same story arc, I just couldn’t shake my sense of deja vu in reading through The Go-Giver.  To be fair, though, since the book was originally published in 2007, perhaps it predated one or two of these other titles.

More troubling is the fact (as one reviewer on Amazon.com also pointed out) that all of the main characters in this book are male — and that the few minor female characters all seem stuck in laughably stereotypical roles.  One is the “Old Man’s” assistant.  Another is a woman known for making great coffee.  Another is a former grade school teacher who becomes a successful businesswoman, selling a line of educational products.  And even Joe’s wife, whom we meet briefly, ends up crying herself to sleep due to some tough issues she’s facing with her co-workers, then miraculously recovers the next morning, madly in love again with Joe simply because he took a few extra minutes to “listen to her” the previous night before going to bed.   So while I certainly can’t speak for every woman out there, I can safely speak for my wife and a few close female friends of mine, who would convulse in hysterics at these shallow portrayals of women, their business savvy, and their emotional neediness.

Last but not least, I just have one other bone to pick with The Go-Giver.  While it occasionally mouths words to the contrary, the book never quite seems to shake the thought that “success” is largely synonymous with financial wealth.  Every single “successful” character we meet in the book, including the Old Man, lives in a palace and appears to have piles of money.  Even Joe (spoiler alert!) transforms into a thriving multi-millionaire by the end of the book, less than a year after meeting his wise mentor and starting to pay just a little more attention of the needs of the people around him.  I mean, I’m all for the power of reciprocity, but let’s get real.  This book comes dangerously close to making networking seem like a get-rich-quick scheme — which I’m sure isn’t the moral the authors intended, but is definitely an impression that gets created.

So all in all, The Go-Giver might be an absolutely perfect read for somebody who hasn’t already read many works in the networking genre or who has no qualms about dropping $21.95 for a short and somewhat simplistic pep talk around the idea that “’tis better to give than to receive.”  And I’ll admit, I thought the five laws above were pretty cool, and definitely added a new twist or two to some of the conventional thoughts on the subject.  In general, though, The Go-Giver suffers from a few flaws that were hard for me to get past, so I can’t recommend it without reservation.

Anybody else read this book and have thoughts about it?