Nice guys finish last—but they get second chances


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.

Nice Guys Can Lead Startups, Too

Formerly published in Techvibes. 

Here you are, straight out of grad school on a pervious entrepreneurial endeavour. You have been warned about the trials and tribulation of managing your own business, leading a team, and branding your ideas against a thousand other brilliant ideas.

The ecosystem is more competitive than ever and nobody has to tell you this again. Still, you believe in yourself, your team and the company culture—but do you have the guts to say “no” when it really counts and still be compassionate?



With the advances of technology came the decline of alpha male CEOs; startups can no longer function as a dictatorship. The majority of communication today is done through text, emails and social media: there isn’t the same opportunity to be bold and ruthless with big decisions.

Leaders are merely members of the troop and even though certain responsibilities fall upon their shoulder, they should not forget that the company comes first. Albeit the original concept may have been their brainchild, it took a team effort to bring it to life—even though it might still be in its infancy.

It’s easy to be blindsided as you company expands, especially when investors show interest and competitors take notice. You consider all that to be good. Somewhere along the lines you have shaken the right hands and smiled the right way. The reason for such success may be your company’s appeal, but it’s probably your passion.

Communicating your company’s vision with enthusiasm is the best way to be likeable. But then you listen to others responses and they throw in their two cents and start making criticisms. You reevaluate your objectives and here is where good leaders stand up with their company’s conviction.

Be adaptive, but also assertive. The worst thing a leader can do is to lose focus of the company’s ultimate goal. Good leaders will take opinions into consideration, but they will not be easily swayed or led astray.



Humbled by the fact that you need your team as much as they need you, you check your ego at the door every day and work hard to grow and scale your business. You play by the rules, offer a slice of pie to everyone on the team and wait for the $3 billion offer from Facebook or Google or whoever is willing to drop some crumbs down to you.

Sounds a little pathetic, huh? But believe it or not, we are all after the same crumbs—there is nothing glamourous about this area of business.

Gratitude is an important value not just as a leader, but also as a human being. Your company’s journey will hopefully be a long one and that means your employees, like all people will get complacent. Acknowledging achievable milestones and creating incentives when they are reach is a way of showing your team how much you appreciate their efforts in an authoritative manner.

You might be after the crumbs—but you can offer some, too.



In journalism it’s often known as the scoop; it’s intelligence that few know. As the leader, you are often rewarded with key information that you can choose to share or keep to yourself. Quality leaders need to know how to stymie gossip and inform others.

But not everything should be communicated. Leaders should be able to recognize certain discouraging data that may ultimately stress the staff. Turbulent times will test you leadership qualities best. If bad news surfaces within the collective, do address it by holding a meeting or through email, connecting in some way will allow you to refocus the group on the company’s goal and finding a solution to the problem.

People want to talk. But when the talking ends, you must make a clear decisive decision. If it fails, the collective fails—if it succeeds, the collective succeeds. You made the decision, but it’s not about you.

It’s best to leave the group out of the daily mundane worrisome junk that every business has to deal with. Don’t forget that you are captaining the ship and it’s important to keep moving forward. As a leader it’s your duty to take some of the pain during though times. You may feel like a push over and that you don’t deserve the emotional beating, but remember pressure is a privilege. Take ownership and rise above it.



If you don’t succeed, you might use this old saying as some comfort. “At least I’m nice,” you’d say to yourself.

Nonsense. Ignorance finishes last, miscommunication finishes last, belittling other’s ideas finishes last—nice guys and nice leaders are reasons the startup industry is so appealing. It’s what makes entrepreneurs who have failed try again.

So: nice guys out there who have paid their dues and still haven’t reap the rewards, I advise not to change your attitude, because nice guys will always get second chances, while the bad guys might just have to go for broke.