How to Get Ahead

Many wise philosophies suggest behaving in moderation is the best way to go through life. One should not be completely focused on either work or family. An enlightened person does not gravitate completely toward spiritual or secular pursuits. By finding common ground between opposing lifestyles, a person can walk the middle path to cultivate happiness and understanding.

However, going through life as a process of self-development is not synonymous with, “Getting ahead.” If you truly want to get ahead, to be special and set apart from everyone else, then the middle path of the sages may not be for you. There are two other options that might work.

Good Choice, Bad Choice Road Sign with blue sky and clouds.

Choose carefully.

I. It is not an extreme generalization to say that most of us would like to be considered nice people. While most things, attitudes, and substances work best in moderation, a person with a good attitude will not be faulted for taking that attitude and running with it. Plus, if you are the type of person who us uber-nice all the time, you will probably see economic and/or social benefits.

Everybody likes nice people. When you say, “please,” and, “thank you,” and always go out of your way to help people out, then people will help you in return. And who knows, they may even give you things! Word spreads that you are an exceptionally courteous and helpful individual, and soon enough you will be greeted on the streets with waves and cheers.

Yankees Parade Baseball

“Hey! There goes Geoff. I love that guy!”

Unfortunately to all the would-be saints, there is a catch. Folks sure love a person who is nice all the time. And then they start expecting him to be nice. It is only a matter of time until he has a bad day, his patience is thin, and he yells at an old woman in the grocery store.

All of that good will is washed away in an instant, and Mr. Uber-Nice is forced back down to the level of the normal people.

Empty Street

“Hey, there goes some guy I don’t know.”

II. Being super nice all the time is a great way to get ahead, but is it cost effective? There must be a way to gain similar advantages without having to work so hard for them. If being nice doesn’t wok for you, well, you can always try being mean.

Being mean and nasty all the time requires just as much commitment as being nice, but it takes a different kind of energy. There aren’t a lot of people who can be a jerk all the time. Still, we have all encountered at least one. Probably more.

These are the people who make asteroid impacts out of a little meteor shower. They throw fits at the slightest provocation, and are baffled by the concept of personal responsibility. Never with a kind word or a good attitude. They are little more than walking problems.

And yet despite this poor disposition, the mean and nasty people do always seem to get their way. They get to cut in lines abuse privileges, and push other people around. And they do all this with the irresistible power of the scowl and the scream. It is really quite amazing what people will let slide in order to get rid of someone they don’t like.

Security Guard

“I’ll give you this priceless art. Then will you stop complaining??”

For those who can handle the consequences, being mean all the time is a viable way to gain the upper-hand. But it is more than just antics and stubbornness. Everyone will hate you. They will see your ill-gotten gains as an affront to justice, and will celebrate your problem.

Those inclined towards this path should also keep in mind that people can only be pushed so far before they start pushing back. Throwing a fit to get an extra sample in the deli is not such a big deal. But if you throw a fit and occupy Poland somebody’s going to try and stop you.

Maybe not right away, but eventually…

III.It is clear that most of us cannot walk either path. We lack the patience to be nice all the time, and we don’t have the wherewithal to be mean to everybody. Otherwise it wouldn’t be so remarkable when someone goes out of their way to do us a favor, or when someone goes out of their way to make the world a little bit more terrible. We talk about these people all the time, because they are rare.

Most of us are just normal. We’re trying to get through life without being bothered, and without bothering anybody. We’re nice when we can be, but most of us aren’t saints. We can be abrasive at times, but only on a bad day. It is almost as if the wise sages who speak of the middle way are trying to take credit for something everyone already knows.

In order for a person to be uber-nice or mega-mean they have to override their innate programing. It is usually wise to leave software alone, but great gains can be made by messing with it. Still, I believe the middle way is best. Not because the ancient sages say so, but because I’m afraid any other path might void the warranty on my brain.


I didn’t read the terms and conditions.