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  • Beware of False “Go-Giver” Premises

    Published March 5th, 2010 by

    John and I are always delighted to receive the many emails from readers who share with us how utilizing the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success has helped them add value to the lives of others, and created more prosperity for themselves and their loved ones, as well.

    Of course, while a Go-Giver doesn’t “give to get” but “gives to give,” they also know that doing this creates a benevolent context for success; the powerful seeds of goodwill they’ve cultivated will come back to them many times over, in the form of direct business and referrals.

    Yet we also receive letters that, while well-intended, proceed from a false premise, and a potentially dangerous one at that:

    “Being a Go-Giver means giving yourself and your product or service away for free, without any concern for making a profit.”

    Folks, it absolutely does not mean that!

    There’s a time and place to give things away for free. Sometimes, it’s a smart marketing strategy: give people a sample, and they’ll be in a better position to decide if they want to buy. (John and I provide a free download of Chapter 1 of each of our books for just that reason.)

    That’s not being a Go-Giver, and it’s not not being a Go-Giver. It just is what it is.

    Being a Go-Giver, in and of itself, has nothing to do with giving things away for free.

    Being a Go-Giver means you tap into the Five Laws shared in the book. You provide more in value than you take in payment; you touch many lives with that value; you put other people’s interests first; you operate from a foundation of authenticity; and you allow yourself to receive.

    That last one – receiving – is often the point in all this that gets forgotten.

    A Twitter friend wrote me the other day saying that a customer of hers sent her a nasty email complaining that she was charging too much for her product. My friend had decided that, “in the Go-Giver spirit,” she would not charge the person at all.


    … is what I wanted to write back, but I didn’t. I was a bit gentler and tactful. I explained that perhaps she was confusing being a Go-Giver with being a doormat or whipping post.

    I asked if, with her normal price, she was providing significantly more in value than what she was charging, while still making a significant profit. She said, “Yes, absolutely.”

    In that case, I suggested, she was already being a Go-Giver. She simply needed to effectively communicate that value to her customer. She agreed, and that’s exactly what she did.

    Another case in point: Jennifer Ledbetter, aka PotPieGirl, recently promoted our book on her affiliate marketing site, and one of her readers upbraided her for including an affiliate link, as if there were something somehow wrong with her making a profit — when earning a profit through affiliate marketing is the whole point of her site!

    It can be so easy to fall into the trap of this false dilemma (what we call in the new book a “treacherous dichotomy”) that says you are either in business to serve others or you’re in it for the money.

    As if one excluded the other. It doesn’t — no more than giving excludes receiving.

    Please don’t buy into this treacherous dichotomy, this guilt-tripped dualism. It’s a bad sale, and enough people are probably trying to sell you on it already — don’t do it to yourself.

    In my next post, we’ll look at a second false premise regarding the term Go-Giver and how it can result in people trying to guilt you into living very unproductively. And we’ll discuss the solution, as well.

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    3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

    1. Pingback: That Thing About Thinking | Bob Burg on May 25, 2010
    2. Pingback: Interview: Co-Author of "The Go-Giver," Bob Burg The Minimalist Trader on January 30, 2011
    3. Pingback: “But What About When *They* Aren’t A Go-Giver?” | Bob Burg on March 16, 2011


    1. Ben Waugh on March 5, 2010

      I must say this is a great article — i enjoyed reading it! Keep the good work :)

    2. Amy M. Dagen on March 5, 2010

      Thank you *so* much for this timely post… I’ve been struggling with this very issue. Your taking the time to explain it truly helped me to understand that giving and receiving are not mutually exclusive!

    3. Leticia Dominguez on March 5, 2010

      Nicely said! Being a Go-Giver is about the value you create for another person. When we give away our products, services and ourselves, we, simply put, are saying, “It’s worthless,” and where is the value in that?

      You hit the nail on the head. A Go-Giver recognizes: “You provide more in value than you take in payment; you touch many lives with that value; you put other people’s interests first; you operate from a foundation of authenticity; and you allow yourself to receive.”

      Thank you for sharing and reminding me how to be a go-giver!

    4. Geneva on March 5, 2010

      This is so good! The “get something for nothing” mentality is what you said … people trying to lay their guilt on you. They probably practice it in everything they do. This manipulation technique leaves you questioning your motives, wondering if you truly did try to rip someone off, while the perpetrator feeling like they won the super bowl.

      Your product, whether it is an actual tangible product or your time and services, are extremely valuable. While someone may see just “a product” they do not see the countless hours behind the scenes where you have invested in the creation of it, marketing, education, PDCA’s, etc. Holding posture for your hard work and effort should never be disregarded.
      If someone wants less … let them go to a flea market or garage sales with this “bargaining” mentality.
      Sorry if this is harsh and I do not mean for it to be. I have just learned to truly value people.

      I love paying it forward, but not out of guilt. Because I want to be the epitome of a true, bonafide Go-Giver!

      When the Go-Giver came down as our TEAM B.O.M., I devoured it and the 5 laws are amazing. They can be applied in everything you do.

      I appreciate & value your wisdom. Thanks for the insight!

    5. Juli Monroe on March 5, 2010

      Excellent point. To be able to give, we have to be able to cover our own basic needs. It’s hard to be a Go-Giver when your house is being foreclosed.

      To cover our basic needs, we need to make money. And if we are in business for ourselves, our business needs to make a profit. Too many people seem to miss that point when they upbraid business owners for making money.

      To give, we must also receive. Without receiving, we lose the ability and the capacity to give. Makes kind of a neat circle, when it works.

    6. Bob Burg on March 5, 2010

      Thank you, Amy. A few letters/comments I’d received lately, and even a few posts on various sites, gave me a bit of an uneasy feeling that some people were, perhaps, equating being a Go-Giver in a way that, not only was inaccurate, but very counter-productive to their success. I appreciate your kind feedback.

      Leticia, I agree with you. Giving the product or service away at less than its real value (unless for a specific, strategic reason) is not only harmful to the seller, but doesn’t allow the buyer to embrace its actual value.

      And, of course, even aside from strategy, there’s a time and place to simply give away something of value with nothing required nor expected; charity, kindness advice, etc. When in alignment with one’s value system this is a beautiful thing. And, while doing these things are often characteristics of Go-Givers, they are not – in and of themselves – Go-Giving. They are simply “giving” and there ain’t nuttin’ wrong with that. :-)

    7. Bob Burg on March 5, 2010

      Ben, thank you. I wasn’t ignoring you. For some reason, these got posted on a staggered time. My apologies. Thank you for your kind feedback.

      Geneva, thank you. I appreciate everything you said. The key is to do what you do in alignment with your values and a true desire to provide value; not out of guilt. In the next article, I’ll actually be discussing how people can sometimes try and guilt people into doing their will, and how to avoid falling victim to that. Thank you again.

      Hi Juli, indeed, it makes for a terrific cycle, and it does work. We just need to make sure we are truly understanding what “it” is.

    8. Becky Carlson on March 5, 2010

      Bob — This is indeed so timely for me. You gave me value just by reading this and I can’t wait for the next one about guilt :-) Because my husband and I are artists, we are often not thought of as being in “business.” You have given me some great ideas about how to approach this! Thanks.

    9. Randy Gage on March 5, 2010

      People say things like, “I don’t want to make money off my friends.” But I did a survey and discovered my enemies don’t do business with me.

      You must make a profit and be prosperous yourself first, or you can help no one.


    10. Joe on March 5, 2010

      To give things away for free is the marketing strategy that I use most often! I give people a Free Room of carpet cleaning so they’ll be in a better position to decide if they want to buy. It’s kind of like test driving a car. To me, the five laws are guidelines for how to live your life. The point of being in business is to make money by serving others. BTW: RG makes a great point!


    11. Lori Latimer on March 5, 2010

      As someone who is just starting my own business, your insights and wisdom are invaluable. Although I got your new book, Go Givers Sell More, last week, I was only able to start reading it this afternoon. All I can say is, “Wow”!

      For several years I have been restless in my “day job” and knew there was something more that I could do. So I am taking the part of my day job that I love the most to the next level. Not easy, while still working that day job, but it’s a way I can serve at a higher and much more rewarding level than I’ve been doing.

      I am very fortunate in that I make very good money in my day job while giving much more than just the legal help that’s required of me. I’ve always said that I can do just about anything to earn a paycheck, but that I need more than just a paycheck if I’m going to spend so many hours at work.

      What I’ve gotten beyond a paycheck is the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve helped people through one of the worst things they’ll ever go through (divorce and custody cases), and the wonderful thank-you notes and letters I’ve received when a case is over. That’s what’s made it worth it all these years. Now it’s time to do all of that for myself in my own business and serve people in a much bigger way.

      I know that I will return to your books over and over again as I continue to grow my own business for inspiration as well as the wisdom they provide. They should be required reading in all schools in this country. If they were, our society would be at a much higher level than it is. Thanks!

    12. Bob Burg on March 5, 2010

      Hi Becky. Thank you for your kind feedback. And, that’s very true; I hear that from many artists (hence, the ridiculously unnecessary “starving artist” syndrome). Provide immense value and charge accordingly. Your customers will respect you more, and you’ll make enough money to be able to keep providing immense value to more and more people. And, cycle of value and abundance continues.

      Randy, thank you. Great quote. I hope you are planning on tweeting that one. Or, I will (with credit, of course, to @RandyGage) :-)

      Joe, exactly. You are a Go-Giver who happens to use the “give some value for free” strategy as, just that; a strategy. Yes, I agree with you re: Gage’s point. It’s what a call a “classic Gage-ism.” :-)

      Lori, thank you. Your Go-Giving spirit and heart comes through in every word, sentence and paragraph. Look out world; you’re about to receive more value from Ms.Latimer than you can even imagine. Lori, please keep in touch and let us all know how things are going. And, thank you for your kind words about John’s and my new book. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

    13. Andrea on March 6, 2010

      Bob, terrific post. I think you cleared up an important for people that have not yet read Go-Givers Sell More (& if they haven’t, they are MISSING OUT!) Clearly there is a mentality that in selling there is always a ‘Loser’ and a ‘Winner.’ Giving value, making a sale can be a ‘win-win.’ In fact, from a buyer’s perspective, if you think back to your favorite experiences and purchases they are often the ones where you paid a lot – sometimes more than you thought you should or wanted to – but the value was there – and those are the things we remember long after the money is spent.

    14. Bob Burg on March 6, 2010

      Thank you Andrea. First, thank you for your kind words about John’s and my new book. Much appreciated. And, regarding your thoughts on the “Loser and a Winner” mentality, absolutely. That is a huge problem. And, while we’ve tried to dispel that in our books, it persists only because it’s been so ingrained for so long into the human thought process and belief system. That’s why when I start to see or hear of people equating being a Go-Giver with anything other than both sides feeling great about a transaction, I feel that needs to be addressed. Thank you again for your encouraging feedback.

    15. Deborah Stewart on March 6, 2010

      Bob, what an important post! You were right to course correct the seemingly rampant misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Go-Giver philosophy. And your clarification was (no surprise) brilliant!.

      Tied in with the faulty “this OR that” thinking is the prevalant lack of prosperity consciousness highlighted in your examples. It concerns me greatly! When a customer complains about price, or complains about one’s right to profit, there are 2 possible reasons:

      1) They are confusing price with value, and as you’ve pointed out it is our job to show them the value.
      2) They have personal “lack” thinking about wealth and prosperity and everyone’s right to make money. No surprise since most of us were raised with very definate unhealthy ideas about money and abundance.

      Now what’s more revealing, is our response to these customer objections. If our knee-jerk reaction is to feel guilt, or shame, or discomfort, followed by an offer of a freebie or unwarranted deep discount, well then we have just revealed our own “lack” concsiousness. Or our own insecurity about what we are worth. Pay attention here! It means there is a belief to examine and fix.

      If anyone wants to explore this prosperity concept further, I highly recommend the insight and resources of Randy Gage.

      I’m reminded now of something James A Ray says: “It is NOBLE to charge what you are worth, as long as you are providing 10 times in VALUE.” That’s right, NOBLE!

      Even better, is this explanation: ” Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.” -Not sure where I read it, but it’s brilliant! (wink)

      Thanks Bob, for inviting us to the conversation. Always a pleasure.

      ~Deb (D-E-B ) lol

    16. Bob Burg on March 6, 2010

      Thank you “Deb.” :-) Your entire commentary was terrific. Thank you!

    17. Chaachi on March 7, 2010

      Bob, I never quite know what to say about you to describe what you mean to me or who you are in the way of a friend……except AMAZING! Love, Chaachi

    18. Bob Burg on March 7, 2010

      WOW – thank you, Chaachi. Now I’m *really* glad I wrote the article 😉

    19. Harm Geurs on March 9, 2010

      Having subscribed to the Go-Giver philosophy, I also fall into the trap of not asking for anything in return, and this in turn leads to anger and resentment. However, as someone who has a giving personality, I find great fulfillment in being able to give when the opportunity fits within the context of my business.

      Bob, can you send me the link to your book:
      “Five Laws of Stratospheric Success”

      Thanks for your insights.

    20. John David Mann on March 9, 2010

      Hi Harm,

      The book you’re looking for is actually called The Go-Giver — and you can find links to it right here on this site. Also visit the home page, there is a link there to receive the first chapter as a free sample.

    21. Teryl on March 13, 2010

      Thank you so much for creating a space for ongoing practice and understanding of the five laws of stratospheric success!

      As one of the owners of a Wellness Spa and Fitness facility, I have had ongoing struggles within myself regarding fees for service, etc. I have such a passion for what I do as a fitness professional and would of course do it for “free”, easily. It took some time for me to realize, as I watched peoples lives change due to the work we did together, that there was really no price value that could be placed on genuine concern for others and increasing the quality of their life! The payment was just that, as the value of what they were getting was priceless! Thanks so much for breaking down these most practical laws!

    22. Bob Burg on March 14, 2010

      Thank YOU, Teryl. It’s obvious that you’ve come to understand and embrace the exceptional value you are providing, and that you are able to receive in abundance as a result of providing that value. And everyone comes out the better for it! Rock on!

    23. Bones Rodriguez on March 15, 2010

      I think the reason so many people misunderstand the message is because of a fundamental flaw in the system.

      It is IMPOSSIBLE to give more in value than you receive in money, because YOU don’t set the price-

      The Customer does.

      and even then, there is really no way to quantify it.

      this section: “I asked if, with her normal price, she was providing significantly more in value than what she was charging, while still making a significant profit. She said, “Yes, absolutely.””

      Makes absolutely NO sense.

      Every single employee will tell you they provide more in value than they are paid, and every customer would ALWAYS prefer to pay less for something, and every person wants to be on the “winning” side of the equation because that’s how our system is set up.


      10 bananas for 5 pears is equal only if both people agree. And a “profit” shouldn’t be a part of it- it makes NO sense.

      Just to put it closer to home, I happened to love your books, and paid for them, but other books, not nearly as much, yet I paid the same for them. All of these “add-ons” like the blog, community, etc are all great, an in theory they “add value’, but THEY DO NOT because of the definition of money!

      Again- I paid the SAME for them.

      I think that so many of us have issues not with Charging money, but getting a PROFIT is usually the issue.

      Because we all understand emotionally that it actually NEVER equals out.

      I had a ton of more to say, kinda just saying the same thing, but would love to have a conversation…

    24. Sean Woodruff on March 15, 2010

      Interesting analysis, Bones.

      I think you start by saying that the customer defines the value received. Yes, I certainly agree with that.

      Then, I think you say it is impossible to provide more in value than the price because the money is the only value exchange taking place.

      Wait, what if the customer doesn’t define value only with money?

      For example, I manufacture a special trailer hitch. We take pieces of steel and cut them, weld them, and assemble them into a mechanism that connects a tow vehicle to a trailer. If steel for money was a dollar for dollar exchange we would never sell a single hitch because there are “hitches” that cost A LOT less than what I manufacture.

      What I have found, through interactions with many thousands of customers, is that many people do not put a high value on the money. My customers value such things as their family’s safety, the memories they create with friends and family, and worry and stress-free driving. Most also value a trusted professional that can answer questions regarding their equipment and specific situation. All of these things, I have found, deliver MORE value than I receive in dollars/price. I’m not stating that as a fact defined by me but as a fact defined by customers that purchase the product.

      Maybe I am off in understanding your comment but in my world what you are saying just doesn’t make any sense.

    25. Bones Rodriguez on March 22, 2010

      No, what I mean is that all of the things that you add make the value higher, and that’s WHY they pay you more. And it is always an even trade.

      What I’m saying is that BY DEFINITION of money, all their safety concerns, and other things they want GET a monetary value- and it’s always arbitrary and subjective.

      The price you put on your hitches reflects what YOU think they are “worth”, but if no customers felt the same way, you’d have to change some things, right?

      I no longer think our system of money works, and it is SLOWING our communal growth.

    26. Amy Hagerup on March 31, 2010

      I just listened to an archived phone call with Mentoring For Free that you did on Saturday, I believe. I really like your premise and have put your books on my Amazon wishlist! I was glad to come across your website thru someone’s tweet. Thanks for all your help. Blessings, Amy

    27. Alecia Stringer on April 8, 2012

      Great inspiration. Be always ready to give and give it forward without being ready to do it. It should come at any moment you least expect it.

    28. Kent on December 29, 2012

      Agree with you, Bob. As you already mentioned in your book, we don’t always give something for free but we always add value, period.

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