Seems stupid. In fact, it is. It’s the reverse of Robert Greene’s seventh law: “get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit.” But, when you’re on the rise, it is often the only way to infiltrate the group and provide value.
The inexperienced can’t play by the same rules as the accomplished. You can’t lean on experience because you’re young and haven’t done anything. You can’t rely on expertise because you’re young and you don’t know shit. You can’t stand on your reputation, because you don’t have one. There’s not much you can do, except do all the work and let others take the credit.
There’s two reasons this is such a powerful strategy.
1) Every bit of value you can provide, although you may not take credit, can be chalked up as personal experience. It’s a low-risk investment of your time and energy. If it doesn’t work, it won’t see the light of day. You can learn from the errors and move on to your next attempt. If it does, someone else takes the credit, someone else gains. This is an affirmation of the value you can provide. Which leads to…
2) If you do the work, and someone else takes the credit, you have created a debt. Ever heard of the reciprocation bias? It is one of Robert Cialdini’s six tools for persuasion. It features as one of the psychological misjudgements in Seeking Wisdom. Most individuals abhor a debt.
In Ancient Rome, a man with debts was considered a slave. Consider what Publius Syrus said: “Bitter for a free man is the bondage of debt.” Those indebted to you cannot attain peace of mind until it is paid. By creating debts with those you wish to learn from, you have the chance to create a strong, reciprocal relationship.
But it is not a foolproof strategy. You can give and give and give and get nothing in return. This will happen. Do not be surprised or upset. Your ideas and creativity are not a scarce resource. You will always have more and be able to give more. For every person who responds to your generosity, there will be several who are prepared to take what you offer and shit on you. But see 1). Every time you do this, it accumulates as experience.
All you can do on the come up is give. Greene’s fortieth law of power says to “be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.” You may not have money, but you do have ideas, which are themselves a currency to be spread and liberally distributed. Don’t ask what others can do for you. Ask yourself, “what can I do for them?”
If you wish to dine with the successful, the influential, the wise, you must at least contribute to the feast. In Ryan Holiday’s article, Seriously, You Can Do Whatever You Want, he says “If you bring something to the table, you get to take something back.” It’s a universal law. By enriching others, you can enrich yourself.
Do all the work and let others take the credit.