To be successful in this business, it’s important to understand how giving works. The essence of it is this: the more you give, the more you have.

How can that possibly be true? It seems to fly in the face of logic. But it is logical—it just follows a different sort of logic from the one we’re used to, something like the difference between the classic physics of Newton and the strange world of quantum mechanics.

Newtonian physics has a 2 + 2 = 4 kind of logic: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Picture atoms, the ultimate building blocks of nature, as little billiard balls: inert bits of matter that move when you hit them in predictable, linear paths. Bank the 6 ball off the side, hit it into the corner pocket.

But as quantum physics discovered, atoms are not inert building blocks at all, but are themselves tiny universes each embodying unimaginably vast amounts of energy behaving in entirely unpredictable ways that seem to defy Newtonian logic.

Classic business operates by billiard-ball logic: action = reaction. You give me $100, and I’ll give you $100 worth of lumber. You loan me a grand, I pay you back a grand plus interest (friction). Classic physics says, when you give something away, you no longer have it: transactions deplete. Sell off your lumber, steel, oil, hours, effort, and it’s gone. Economics is called the “dismal science” because it catalogs this ongoing process of depletion.

But managing relationships based on the billiard-ball logic of economics is not a very productive way to live. Good for keeping track of widgets, foot-pounds and minutes on the clock—but not of people and their interactions. We try it anyway: “I did the dishes last night, tonight it’s your turn.” And for a while, it seems to work—but never in the long term. The arithmetic invariably breaks down.

Millions of marriages have gone bust and nations throughout history have gone to battle over scorecards that didn’t seem (to either party) to tally fairly. Live by billiard-ball logic, and before long bullets will fly. Relationships don’t work this way—because they are governed by an altogether different physics.

The secret is to stop keeping score.

In the economics of human interaction, spending doesn’t deplete: it multiplies. The more knowledge you give, the more you accrue. The same with appreciation, acknowledgement, wisdom, attention, care. When you keep it to yourself it doesn’t build interest; it withers. In fact, the only way you can get more of it is to continuously give it away.

Does that sound familiar? It should: it’s how love works. That is the economics that lies at the heart of this business: The more you give away, the more you have.

Adapted from Go-Givers Sell More by BOB BURG and JOHN DAVID MANN,
by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
Copyright (c) Bob Burg and John David Mann, 2009.