Photo by psd. License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.
Smart kids know you can’t achieve anything that qualifies as true “success” by being a jerk. Let’s say that by scheming and conniving and backstabbing and being unethical, you make several million dollars. You’re now a jerk with some money. Yay. When the coke high fades and the… companions… leave, then what?
“But you don’t understand,” smirks Mr. Strawman, the “jerk” created for the sole purpose of being refuted in my next paragraph. “Now I can live in this fabulous palace, drive this expensive car, dine in these fine restaurants, and wear special non-poor-people clothing, so that everyone recognizes my greatness. And I don’t have to work! I’ll just lounge on a beach somewhere until I die, possibly getting involved now and then with another shady enterprise.”
But Mr. Strawman, if you observe the world carefully, you will discover that somebody who made a million dollars by being dishonest would likely have made two million by being honest. However, there is a sizable minority of people who believe otherwise. They may have grown up around shady people and think such behavior is normal. Or they may be drawn to the romanticism and self-destructiveness of the dark side. To such people, only boring patsies keep their promises, tell the truth, and treat others the way they would want to be treated. Such people often have talents they can capitalize on, and they often make money. But how many of them have real friends, stable marriages, the trust of their children, and the respect of their peers?
“Daddy, how did you make so much money?”
“Well, Son, I defrauded investors over the course of many years in a classic ‘Ponzi scheme’, siphoning away their hard-earned money so I could spend the rest of my life wondering whether I’d get caught.”
“Way to go, Dad!”
In the end, we tend to get what we value most, and while smart kids appreciate money, they know it’s not smart to value it over everything else.
So smart kids tend to be nice. This doesn’t mean being a pushover, but it does mean being polite, honest, dependable, and decent.
Some of the more outgoing ones have taken the Dale Carnegie course. If they haven’t taken it they’ve probably read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, the old-school version with Madame Schumann-Heink and the crack about iodine and somebody’s thyroid gland. Nobody has ever written a better guide to succeeding by being decent. But if someone does, call me.