Why giving leads to getting

Many years ago I heard a quote from the late great Jim Rohn who said that if you help enough people solve their money problems, then all yours would disappear. At first I thought it was motivational bunk.

But while reading the terrific book Homo Deus by Harari recently I came across something called The Ultimatum Game. It is a famous experiment in behavioural economics which disproves the theory that we are all rational beings when it comes to money and economics.

In this experiment, usually conducted with two people, one of the them is given $100, which they must decide to divide between themselves and the other participant in any way they want. The person may keep everything, split the money, give most away, or keep more for themselves. The other player can do one of two things: accept the suggested division, or reject it outright. If they reject the division, nobody gets anything.

Classical economic theory would suggest that people are rational calculating machines. They assume that most people will keep $99 and give the other person $1. And that, the person would accept the offer of $1 because it is still better than getting nothing. They claim that a rational person would always accept a free dollar. Except that we don’t – and it isn’t irrational.

For the record most people split it 50/50. Some 40/60 or 30/70.

People may think that we reject tiny offers because it is ‘unfair’, they look like ‘suckers’, but it has more to do with the fact that our social structures just don’t operate that way. We humans work on a warm social logic. We know that sometimes we have more and sometimes we have less. We split the labour amongst our tribe and try to collaborate so we all have more through trade and trust. Once we do this the laws of reciprocity set in. We know we are all in it together, and we benefit more through sharing, than we do through gauging. We know this intuitively through thousands of years of evolution. Greedy people and pure suckers, well, their DNA never made it through the many famines.

A practice what I preach. Come join me in Melbourne June 20th, for a Free night where I share ideas I’ve learned in my career, from my new book, The Lessons School Forgot. Drinks on me, and I’ll answering any questions you have about your future.

It’ll be a great night. Hope to see you there.

Stay rad, Steve.