Harder, But Better

jeff-bezosJeff Bezos was an exceptionally bright young man. Even in grade school, he became a leader of his peers in the program for gifted and talented children. He has used his abilities well. You most likely know of him as the founder of Amazon.com. He is one of America’s wealthiest tech giants, but the lessons he has learned as a genius and entrepreneur are insignificant to one that he learned from his grandparents.

Young Bezos had to learn that there is more to life than being bright. When he was only ten, his grandparents took him on a road trip. From the backseat of their car, he heard an anti-smoking public service announcement. Bezos took the data he heard on the radio and did some mental math, before proudly announcing to his grandmother that her smoking habit was likely to cause her to die nine years prematurely.

You probably aren’t surprised to know that she didn’t take this pronouncement very well, but Jeff was caught off-guard. He didn’t understand her reaction. What he said was true. He His grandfather pulled the car over and escorted him away as his grandmother continued to cry. Bezos wasn’t sure what would happen next—a lecture, a spanking, a disagreement—but he never forgot what happened next. He said, “My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, ‘Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.’”

It’s not that hard to be right. Clever isn’t that difficult, either, but kindness, that takes work.

Maybe we need to learn the lesson that young Jeff Bezos learned. Maybe we need to do the hard thing. Maybe we need to do the better thing.