In the book “The Everything Store,” Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, talks about the time he was taught a lesson on the importance of being kind over being right.
Every few years when Jeff Bezos was a kid, Bezos’ grandparents Pop and Mattie Gise would caravan across the country, and occasionally they would take Jeff along with them.
On one of these road trips, when Bezos was ten and passing time in the back seat, Bezos had taken some mortality statistics he had heard on an antismoking public service announcement and figured out that his grandmother’s smoking habit would take nine years off her life.
When Jeff informed his grandmother of this, she burst into tears, and Pop Gise immediately pulled over and stopped the car.
Mattie Gise had fought cancer for years and she would eventually lose the battle to it.
Bezos described what happened next decades later in his 2010 commencement speech at Princeton University.
“My grandfather got out of the car and came around and opened my door and waited for me to follow: Was I in trouble? My grandfather was a highly intelligent, quiet man. He had never said a harsh word to me, and maybe this was to be the first time? Or maybe he would ask that I get back in the car and apologize to my grandmother. I had no experience in this realm with my grandparents and had no way to gauge what the consequences might be. We stopped beside the trailer. 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.”
Bezos’ grandparents taught him a lesson in compassion that day that he’ll never forget, which is that every day, you have choices, and that being kind instead of clever is always a choice.