You Get What You Give

My brother in law has a saying, “you get what you give.” Every time he says it, I just nod my head.

In the late 90s, after I started my first venture capital firm, I was working like a dog and had a young family, a wife and three kids. At an offsite that I attended, there was a psychologist who talked about work life balance. He said, “you’d better pay attention to your kids when they are young, build the connections early, because if you don’t, when they become teenagers, you won’t be able to reach them and you’ll have missed your opportunity”. I made a point to get home earlier and pay more attention on the weekends. You get what you give.

Working with entrepreneurs is a lot like being a parent. If you are attentive, work hard to build a connection, if you are there when the entrepreneur needs you, then they’ll listen to you. Otherwise, they’ll just end up “managing you” and you’ll never have the impact you want to have on the company. You get what you give.

Living in a community, being a neighbor, belonging to an organization or a school is the same way. You can stick to yourself, make your own way, focus on your own needs. Or you can get involved, roll up your sleeves, and give of yourself in whatever way you can. The latter approach is so much more rewarding. You get what you give.

And it’s no surprise that blogging works the same way. I put myself, my thoughts, my experiences out there for all of you to read and react to. And everyday I get a host of comments that teach me something. You all take the time to educate me back. And I am so much better off because of it. You get what you give.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. nick davis


  2. thompsa6

    Couldn’t agree more. Our recent experience with this at Addada and blogging our startup as “anti-stealth” via had a nice side affect on the people in our community. That side affect being that people we know (and even some we don’t) who are not in a position to take the time and/or the risks that we are taking as a startup feel that they can give to our business and service by providing valuable feedback. What they get in return is the feeling of excitement of being involved in a startup and the feeling of “that was my idea” when a comment turns into a feature request and then gets added into the service.

  3. Guest

    The ROIs on quality blogging are indeed very good. Such a powerful vehicle to access so many people with virtually no transaction cost. All your investment is in the content…

  4. Luke Razzell

    Oh, great post Fred! : )”You get what you give” is certainly a lesson we learn over and over at Blog Friends.

  5. jackson

    Everything works that way.

    1. fredwilson


  6. Joe Lazarus

    Well said Fred.

  7. Kid Croesus

    Great post

  8. Jed Christiansen

    Well said, Fred. Very well said.

  9. Lee Bryant

    Nice. You give a lot, BTW, with your blogging. You really are the most engaging VC writer I have come across 🙂

  10. Luke H

    Well said. But, what, no New Radicals song attached to the post?

    1. fredwilson

      DamnI wrote it on the plane and forgotsorry

  11. Dan Blank

    Fred – this is flat out the best advice on blogging I have ever read. For all the tips and tactics about how to be a successful blogger and engage with an audience – nothing beats the simple act of caring.Thanks for posting this… your larger point about how this extends to all of life is equally well received.Have a great day.-Dan

  12. JohnMaloney

    Great post and all true, Fred.Forget the New Radicals –> this is much more about The Scorpions What You Give You Get Back…

  13. alex

    Great post Fred, couldn’t agree more, I think this is very true for all things in life, big and small.

  14. howardlindzon

    same with viruses by the way.

    1. Greg

      Wouldn’t that be “you give what you get”?

      1. fredwilson

        It works either way!

    2. Guest

      🙂 true…the quote is also a good paraphrase of the First Law of Thermodynamics…Unfortunately, the Second Law states that You Get Less Than What You Give…

  15. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    Fred – I also believe that the more you give, the more you receive. Another way of saying this is ‘what goes around comes around.’ When I was younger I thought people just said that to feel better about the situation, but I have seen it come around (good and bad). Usually we don’t see it come around (if it’s bad) but now I believe it does but it may not be in business but elsewhere. Negative energy. Oh yeah, and yet another way to say it biblically ‘you reap what you sow.’I noticed by your twitter posts that you were in Austin. I hope you enjoyed our cool-ish weather. I am following you on twitter but not sure if you see my @ tweets to you…still learning about twitter. I also just met someone who has sat on a BoD with you, Nataly Kagan. She’s doing a start-up herself. Small world. I’m evaluating going out for angel funding for my company, Babble Soft, next year.Happy Holidays!

  16. greenskeptic

    Posts like this, Fred, are why I come back day after day. You are a gem. Thanks for all you give.

  17. RacerRick

    Long GIVE

  18. RacerRick

    Short GET?

  19. Michael Lazerow

    Fred, this is an awesome post. Hits a little too close to home for me — working like a dog, have a wife (who I happen to work with) and three young kids.

    1. fredwilson

      Family first, work secondIt’s hard but critically importantFred

      1. Michael Lazerow

        Absolutely. That’s why Kass and I live in the city. We have a 20 block rule. Work, home and kids’ school are all within 20 blocks right now so we can work hard, be there for the kids and be there for each other. Happy holidays.

  20. Hadar

    I too am a VC based in NY. I only blog about personal stuff though, so nothing in my blog comes even close to being as interesting as the stuff in yours, bravo!This morning, I was pointed to your blog by the CTO of the first company that I invested in, nearly 10 years ago. I am now subscribed, thanks!My posts are way too long, as would be my full comment here. I’ll spare anyone who isn’t interested in hearing my full comment on this post by not putting it here in line. For those who are curious, I just posted my “comment” on my own blog. ;-)Hint, the title gives it away, so you don’t have to click if that doesn’t interest you. :-)…

  21. Lidia

    I enjoyed reading this…the work-life balance is so out of whack for many people and they are enslaved to their job. They are afraid to give more time for their families in case they don’t keep up with the pace at work. Fear plays a great part in defining people and sometimes they’re not even aware of it; they think its ambition that is driving them. I think the fact that you took heed of what the psychologist said is great. When people pay attention to messages sent for a reason, they can improve their lives.

  22. Bob

    very inspiring. thanks!

  23. brisbourne

    Great post. As a dad, VC and blogger I couldn’t agree more. Shame there isn’t more of a community round where I live in London.

  24. crawford

    Thanks Fred. Return on Emotion is hard to measure but worth tracking.

  25. Michael D.

    I’ve always believed in a similar maxim when it comes to charitable giving and see some lessons here for my young daughters. Thanks for the timely post: Made my day.