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GIVE Theory: Success is Measured by What You Do for Others – Brian Medavoy

GIVE Theory: Success is Measured by What You Do for Others

GIVE Theory

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill”

I love this quote because it so adeptly pinpoints why I am so passionate about giving.

Wealth, notoriety, status, and power are only external, socially constructed measures of success. To me, success is better measured by the health of your relationships and is heightened by what you do for others.

When building success in this way, I believe you are on the path to truly make a difference. After all, you don’t control the outcomes of your life; your principles do.

Today, I want to share with you the 4 principles of my personal GIVE theory.


“That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” — Simone de Beauvoir

I get 5 to 10 emails a week from actors asking me to represent them. Believe it or not, I write them all back. I do it because I believe in the power of human connection. I do it because I empathize with the uphill that actors typically face. I do it because no one else bothers to do it.

And over time, I’ve realized that I also do it for a more selfish reason …

It feels good to give generously.

And it’s not just me — that’s backed by science.

A study at Stony Brook University found that generosity triggers a response in your brain’s mesolimbic pathway, which recognizes rewarding stimuli. Generosity releases dopamine, endorphins that give people a sense of euphoria; and oxytocin, which is associated with tranquility and inner peace.

Let me simplify: it’s the same response you get from sex or having a pizza delivered … or — ideally — both (it’s one a hell of a rush!)

If you want to be more successful as an actor, I suggest you think about what you can give. It could be as simple as paying compliments to fellow actors. Maybe you want to help teach others or run lines with them (UGH!).

If something moves you, do something about it. Don’t be a bystander when it comes to generosity.

I’m certainly not content to sit around and merely appreciate a passing moment of brilliance or a fantastic performance; I need to share that moment with others and let that talent know how I feel. It’s not even a conscious process. I just know I need to find out how I might involve myself in that person continued success — I need to find ways to embolden them to deepen their mastery of craft.

Through an act of generosity, I’m tying my horse to him or her for at least some period of time. I’m invested, which means we sink or swim together. So it only makes me want to try even harder. Do even more. You don’t burn out as a giver when you start to see the impact you are creating.

No matter what you decide to do, generosity is never wasted. It will eventually pay off.

Trust me.


“Live like every week it’s Shark Week!” – Tracy Jordan (30 Rock)

People want to work with others who are truly inspired by what they are doing.

Just think about a time when you were filled with passion, drive, and creativity — it’s impossible for others to not take notice. In fact, inspiration is strangely contagious.

But inspiration is often thought of as a notion that strikes in moments. Conversely, I believe it can be part of one’s approach to life in the long term. And it is largely connected to the meaning we derive from life.

Look, I could not work for more than five minutes in a job that I wasn’t passionately compelled to do. If I wasn’t inspired at a broader level, I simply couldn’t do it.

Don’t get me wrong — this is different from only doing things that you enjoy. It means that the only way to succeed is to follow a path where you understand why you are on that road. I know who I am, and I believe in my work. This allows me to make authentic connections with others.

I decided to do what I do because I have the ability to help others in their career. God has given us all a gift, and if we use this gift to help others we get paid back spiritually and sometimes even financially. I have been known to build stars from obscurity. Why do I do it?

I’m not inspired by making phone calls all day or reading a stack of scripts over the weekend. I’m inspired by my ability to help actors achieve their goals. It’s the most enjoyable part of my job.

… It’s when people start to make a lot of money that they can become a real pain in the ass.

Here is the real take away for actors; do you understand why you are an actor? What inspires you to pursue such a difficult trajectory? To get rich? To sleep in late?

Or do you feel that by expressing your creativity, you can help others understand the world and themselves? Do you want to move them to take action?

Don’t answer that question without thinking it through. Because it is critically important to understand what matters to you and why.


One thing that had always stayed me was a letter my father wrote me many years ago:

“Because of the community we live in, where people and things can be larger than life and reality takes place in that rarefied air at the top, it’s easy to get the wrong idea about what a person should be… If I teach you nothing else, you are a success in my eyes and in your grandparent’s eyes if you aspire to be an honorable man, a good person, good for your word, good to others, helpful to those less fortunate than yourself, carving your way through life that is open and above board, honest and respectful, gentlemanly and courteous, taking responsibility for your actions- not trying to blame the next employee or your background and upbringing or anyone other than yourself when you step out of line.”

What is the one word that links all of these different actions together?


Valuing others, valuing yourself. Believing in your own worth. Just as important as being generous and inspired in my opinion, value allows you to understand that the things you do actually matter.

One of the most important lessons to learn in Hollywood is that value can be defined in a number of ways — from money and fame to influencing and helping those around you. I have made millions and I have lost millions; why do I have the ability to keep doing it? I am really good at what I do. I understand where my greatest potential lies.

In a way, it’s probably why I appreciate football coaches. At the end of the day, the winning coaches are not simply the best strategists; they are motivators and empathizers for the team.

That’s where I believe my value lies as well. My favorite clients are those who are pure, raw, unfiltered talent who go on to great success through motivation. These are the people who allow me to capitalize on my own value and help me to unlock their own.

What is your value as an actor?


“It’s easier to exemplify values than teach them.” — Theodore Hesburgh

If you truly believe in what you do, think, and value — prove it by example.

My clients, friends and colleagues inspire me on a daily basis. By inviting them to lead and vice versa I have made a career. Example is everything; that’s how I got into managing. Leading by example doesn’t necessarily mean doing anything particularly grand. For instance, I might send out letters to people if they do something that particularly moves me. It’s a concrete action that shows I care.

Sometimes leading by example means you need to take risks. In many cases, this is when it is more important than ever to be what’s in the pudding. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re doing it right. There comes a time when the biggest risk is not taking one, and it will be your job to get out there and go for it. No one is perfect the first time out, but they learn from their experiences.

All of my assistants have gone on to develop wonderful careers of their own, and I believe part of that is due to how I have exemplified my ethos on a day-to-day basis. I have worked to instill these values in my clients as well.

Exemplification is not an action in one specific moment — it is a journey, a consistency. It is the manifestation of your character in the world. Even amidst failures.

In fact, failures are nothing more than exploring and developing your strengths — and one day, reaching your potential. No matter how long you live, you will always have the opportunity to grow.

And with that in mind, it becomes much easier to help others; no singular end goal should take control of you. Your success is measured by what you are doing now. Live in the present and start this very second. The world is your oyster.

The GIVE Theory is the greatest piece of advice I can give to anyone who desires to find success, be they a performer or something else. And I would start with asking yourself, “what does success mean to me?”

In my next post, I will be discussing 11 steps you can use to build success and manifest your desired destiny.

“Don’t Just Take, Give”

Don’t just learn, experience.
Don’t just read, absorb.
Don’t just change, transform.
Don’t just relate, advocate.
Don’t just promise, prove.
Don’t just criticize, encourage.
Don’t just think, ponder.
Don’t just take, give.
Don’t just see, feel.
Don’t just dream, do.
Don’t just hear, listen.
Don’t just talk, act.
Don’t just tell, show.
Don’t just exist, live.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

To succeed, you have to have to GIVE. Success is ultimately measured by what you do for others. Click To Tweet


  • kisten

    Great Post Brian!
    Some people are so focused on trying to get what they want or what they believe will make
    them happy that they often forget to enjoy life in the moment.

  • Alan

    Great article. Wish there were more people who executed your words than regurgitate and claim as their own.

  • Jocelyn Hudon

    “No one is perfect the first time out, but they learn from their experiences.”.. Love it 🙂

  • Pablo Nunez

    I’m glad I came across your blog, great stuff, thank you for giving 🙂

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