Nice guys finish last—but they get second chances

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Passion versus reputation

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 7, 2014

All through our upbringing, people have told us to behave nicely to each other, but there was always this voice in the back reminding us that perhaps we’re getting pushed around and being taken advantage of. We try to puff out our chests and keep our heads up high, but it always seems that when the time comes to make a complicated decision or to say no, we turn soft. For those of us who want to be successful, being nice might just be the one quality to hold us back—but I believe that opportunities are bountiful for those who are kind.

As Eminem sang, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo!” There is a general consensus that opportunities do not come around that often, so when one does arise, it’s important to seize it. It’s good to have goals and pursue them with a passion, but ambition can become a pretty ugly trait when you start pushing people over to achieve your academic, professional, or personal objectives.

Compassion may not be in the same category as work ethic or drive, but it’s a soft skill that will help you gain friends and supporters, rather than rivals and competitors. We always talk about getting a slice of the pie, but let’s be honest: if there is a pie, we aren’t getting a slice of it. We’re scurrying around under the table and we’re waiting for crumbs. It sounds pathetic, but that is how we live. Work together with those who may threaten your ability to move up, not against them. To quote Chinese general, Sun Tzu, and The Godfather: Part II, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Regardless of who succeeds in the end, having a tight network of friends is more valuable than having a one-track mind. Being a self-made man or woman is great, but it’s an illusion. Society is built upon a strong foundation, and that is constructed through kindness and shared opportunities—not through backstabbing and selfish acts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that on average, people change jobs approximately 11 times throughout the course of their lives. Meanwhile, research from Penn State University shows that 80 per cent of American students are uncertain about their majors, and over 50 per cent change their major at least once. That means what you want now might not actually be what you want later. So don’t fret, make friends, and learn more about yourself as you go before you act self-righteous, damage your reputation, and harm others.

It doesn’t matter if you end up being a leader of a small technology start-up company or the mayor of Toronto, it’s always important to have sympathy and kindness towards others. Life is not one destination, it’s a journey—if you waste all your energy reaching a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you’ll realize that you have wasted all you second chances on the petty little things.

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