Nice Guys Really Finish First - Really?

read ( words)

How can anyone with the brain of a cockroach make such a stupid statement?

So rang out the scorn of a killer talk show host on a television station in Cleveland. When I was on tour in his city, John Kelly quoted Leo Derocher who said just the opposite -- ???Nice guys finish last.??? Kelly also quoted from books like Winning Through Intimidation, Looking Out For Number ONE and possibly, Succeeding With A Swift Kick To the Groin.

John Kelly had done everything except put a dunce-cap on my head as he seated me on a stool before the cameras and, despite his complete ignorance of what I was teaching, proceeded to ridicule my leadership seminar for managers, pastors, teachers and other professionals. He held my book up for the audience of some three hundred people -- with tens of thousands more watching from their homes, and asked;

Who can believe this drivel? Everyone on earth knows that a nice guy or gal hasn???t a choice in this lousy, rotten world. You gotta be tough and mean to be successful. Everywhere! How many agree with me that this stuff is nonsense? Raise your hands.

That was premature since no one there had any idea what I was teaching in the seminar, but they voted as Kelly asked them to. Many had preconceived notions and about two hundred people in the studio agreed with John. He then asked, How many agree with -- he didn???t actually say it -- this dunce on the stool, but his non-verbal communication made his meaning quite clear. John was all geared up to take me apart for writing something he didn???t understand. He pointed to the overwhelming number of hands in the air and said; Take it from there, Doc. Let???s see how you handle this rejection. He sat down in the audience, as all three cameras zoomed in close -- to watch me sweat, I suppose. Because I knew what my program was all about and he didn???t -- I countered by agreeing with the host. I said;

If you consider a nice guy or gal a doormat, a wimp, a marshmallow -- I agree with you completely. Such a person doesn???t have a chance to succeed in a tough, competitive world in which many other persons are striving for the same things we want for ourselves. The tough-minded guys and gals will run over the wimps in a very short time. I, however don???t think of the doormats of the world as truly nice guys and gals. I see nice persons as competent and intelligent persons who understand the nature of influence, cooperation and persuasion power -- as those who;




And that, I said to the group, is my definition of a nice guy or gal, of an authentic, emotionally honest parent, teacher, manager, pastor, military officer or what have you!

I folded my arms and sat back on the stool -- waiting, for I had said all I intended to in defense of NICE GUYS AND GALS. So, I waited and waited -- for John to rouse up from his confusion. I could almost hear the gears whirring in his head as first one cam- era and then another zoomed in on me and then on to John and panned the audience be- fore coming back to me and John -- for almost a minute. And that, is an eternity of dead time on television. The camera operators were getting frantic when John finally stood, shook his head to clear his thoughts and muttered right on the air;

Well, I???ll be damned! I never thought of nice guys that way.

Most people don???t but we then had a great time on his show. I convinced him my approach is by far the best way to succeeding throughout life, rather than by clawing and screaming, trying to defeat everyone else, destroying the relationships that create friend- ship and love, clogging your arteries and corroding the plumbing that keeps you alive -- with bile and acids boiling through your vascular and digestive systems.

John had the people vote again and this time all but two men of the three hundred or so in the audience voted that nice guys and gals did indeed have a greater chance at success if they followed my view of sound relationships. They immediately saw the wisdom in my approach and I trust that you also shall understand it that way! The next Sunday, after I???d returned to Minneapolis, I drew my pastor aside, told him my tale and joked;

If you had my percentage of conversions, we???d have the largest congregation in the country!


This course is about people and about succeeding or failing in life, since some degree of success and failure are the only real options that are open to us. It is written with the knowledge that neither power nor pleasure exists in a vacuum. Virtually everything good we do in life requires the cooperation of people in different ways. And every one of them has his or her own agenda that is personally important.

Therefore, you will have to overpower, out-skill, deceive, or persuade others before society will consistently allow you to share in the marbles, money, passionate lovers, prestige or promotions you want. Only in this way can you make your life count for something worthwhile.

Of course, few of the people who are succeeding are willing to share their hard-earned knowledge with you. Mentors are hard to find and they always want much in return for any help they offer.

The purpose of this course is to teach you how to predict the attitudes and activities of the men and women you must influence every day in order to keep your life successful. It also shows you how to influence their choices in ways they approve by using sound methods of personal effectiveness. You can do these things by learning and using powerful techniques developed by some very good psychiatrists and psychologists. These methods are unknown to most people, although professional therapists, consultants and social workers have been using them for decades with much success.

Most people struggle through life the best way they can, succeeding once in a while, but more often failing because they never learned how to consistently make good things happen when and where they are needed. They simply blunder along -- accepting whatever the luck of the draw offers them daily, never really taking charge of their relationships in a mutually rewarding manner that keeps people cooperating with them.

Many persons try to succeed by using the values, attitudes, expectations, and skills they chanced on in childhood. Unfortunately, in this age of relentless change, when power and authority are shared by more and more people, to depend on what you picked up as a youngster is a poor way to shape your life into a successful affair. In our conventional behavioral patterns many mistakes have been handed down from generation to generation. At home you were probably socialized not to ask embarrassing questions of your elders. At school you were expected to memorize the correct answers. And if you are like most people, you are still waiting for someone to ask the right questions so you can show what a good student you were.

Unfortunately for your welfare, no one is ever going to ask them, since most of the answers you learned in school are no longer appropriate. Yet -- millions of men and women who would never imagine crossing the country by covered wagon instead of jet aircraft, who would never take some medicine man's snake-oil cure, try to succeed in life by using methods that were outdated a century ago. And then can???t understand why they aren't among the successful achievers.

Today, men and women are having to cope with complex events that are affecting their lives in many crucial ways. Medicine, personal behavior, education, entertainment, sexual customs, engineering and business methods are all changing more rapidly than at any time in history. We no sooner get comfortable than life rolls over once again, forcing us to learn an entirely new set of attitudes, activities and relationships!

And yet, not one of the changes sweeping over us like Pacific waves crashing onto a reef, has such critical implications when making one???s life count for something satisfying as the attitudes that people now hold toward power and control.

The John Wayne or John Rambo mystique (Tell the jerks what to do!) doesn't motivate competent persons any more. If it ever did! For example, since the disasters caused by fighting the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time -- during America???s shameful wars against poor, dark-skinned Third World nations such as Vietnam, Libya, Panama, Granada, Lebanon, Somalia and others, many perceptive women and men have lost faith in our institutions.

We see Congress and state Legislatures consistently selling out to the highest bidder, business organizations disposing of the faithful employees who do their best work at the drop of a point on Wall Street, the criminal justice system with trigger-happy cops and politically ambitious district attorneys regularly convicting and legally murdering unfortunate, mostly poor, minority men who couldn???t possibly have committed the crimes for which they are being executed. The very flexible morality of primitive politicians, greedy business executives, powerful governmental officials and existentially enraged citizens who feel the execution of any minority man whether guilty or not is a good day???s work -- is a weak reed upon which to lean.

Every person with a smattering of intelligence realizes he or she is out there on the bubble -- pretty much alone -- on his or her own, much of the time. Few of us without the support of government or great wealth have the power needed to demand cooperation from others. Not long ago a middle-aged local realtor told me of an experience he had with his youthful secretary. Dan said that Dianne was a hardworking, high-spirited employee who was competent and loyal enough to become his administrative assistant. He said, she reminded him of the flippant young secretary in the T V series THE PRACTICE. But he began to notice, to his middle age displeasure, that she was dressing more and more casually, as if she were going to a picnic rather than to a business operation. So, he called her into his office and tactfully asked her to dress according to his code -- the long accepted business code set by such giants as I B M, General Motors and Honeywell. The young woman sat silently as he spoke, but when he finished, she stood up and said quite pointedly;

Who needs this crap in an informal business such as this?

Then she walked out of his office, returned to her desk, and continued to work harder and smarter for his small company than any assistant he had ever employed. As he related the story, Dan sighed deeply and said there was little he could do about her impertinence, unless he wanted to cut off his nose to spite his face. He could protect his ego against an outspoken girl -- could fire her of course, and really teach her a lesson, forcing her to take unemployment pay, a month or two of subsidized vacation, and get a job with a company that would not be so stuffy about the way she dressed. But, he would be the real loser. He would spend a month trying to find a suitable replacement, another three or four months trying to help the newcomer learn the job, and another six months blaming himself for letting his ego cost him a year's efficiency in his office. He kept his mouth shut and retained a great assistant -- for he lacked the power to make her comply with his requirements.

Indeed life does go on and we must adapt, must cope with reality in order to succeed, even if doing so makes us suspect that the world is going to hell in a handcart, because humans hate change inordinately and yearn to freeze life as it was when we were learning it. Even when doing so costs us a bundle. Many people do just that because personal prestige is more important to themselves than performance or profits, but it quickly leads to dysfunctional families, schools, companies, churches and communities.

Visit our website at

Warm Wishes,
Jard DeVille

The Author - Jard DeVille, after his World War II era service in the Seventh and Fifth Army Air Forces, studied, ministered to several congregations and taught college psychology for almost two decades. DeVille was Psychology Department Chair at Westminster College, Director of the Kenosha Child Conservation Center in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin at Madison and taught leadership psychology for years in the Executive Development Program for the University of Arizona at Tucson. He served as Manager of Engineering Research, Methods and Training for UniRoyal chemical complex and as Vice President of Manufacturing for automated farm tools in Derardean Corporation.

Jard has published more than a score of psychology books, seminars and psychological assessment instruments. His book NICE GUYS FINISH FIRST was powerful in English, Japanese and Spanish editions. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LEADERSHIP was New American Library???s offering in their Executive Development Series. For twenty years he was considered by many to be America???s foremost leadership scholar.

Rate this article
Current Rating 0 stars (0 ratings)
Click the star above that marks your rating