To start this post I’m going to have to ask you to agree to one basic premise: I am a nice guy. I am one hundred percent confident there will be countless people lined up to fight me on this claim, but for the purposes of this post, please indulge me. We can have the debate about whether I’m a nice guy or not another day.
The old saying “nice guys finish last” comes from an old baseball manager, Leo Durocher, who was talking about his Brooklyn Dodgers team that year. He was talking about how angry players would do more, sometimes playing dirty, to win than nice players. Whether or not you agree with his philosophy is one thing, but what you can’t debate is that there’s more than one way to play the game. Similarly, there’s more than one way to get what you want out of life. That’s where the split between nice guys and other men lie.
There is one question you can ask yourself to determine whether you are a nice guy or not. Would you rather win and achieve your desired goal but give up some of your core values in the process, or would you rather lose everything you wanted but hold onto those tenets? There is no black and white answer to that question, just shades of gray. No person besides fictional villains would give up their morals without batting an eye (hopefully) just as no person besides fictional heroes are truly incorruptible.
The biggest mistake people make is confusing being nice with being naïve. True nice guys know exactly when they’re being taken advantage of. The misconception that nice guys are often insecure and unsure how to articulate how they feel is constantly perpetuated in movies, television, and literature. These “nice guys” are typically chasing after some unrequited love and they often are rewarded for their overtly creepy behavior with the “girl of their dreams.” That’s not what being a nice guy is about. It’s simply about putting the needs or wants of someone else before your own. There is no sense of entitlement that comes from this behavior. I don’t expect anything back in return for my actions, which is what differentiates me from the “nice guys” of fiction who feel their deeds should earn them their desired muse. I act the way I act and do the things I do because I feel like it is right.
There’s a great quote from The Wire, “A man must have a code.” Men may make mistakes, but they will not break their code. They know that no matter what happens, win or lose, that code is the definition of who they are. It defines their character. Men are not defined by whether or not they win battles, but rather how they fight the war. They know there will always be more battles to come. Boys are immature and will do anything they can to win whatever shiny object caught their eye that day. They don’t have a code other than winning at all costs. Losing causes boys to break down or throw tantrums because they have nothing to fall back on. I know that it’s ok to lose to a boy because I don’t want to win something that a boy even stands a chance of winning.
A good test for being a true nice guy is often how adversity is handled. Taking the high road is not supposed to be easy, but rather about doing what you know to be right no matter the consequences. There is only one prize that comes from taking that road, but in my mind it far outweighs any reward that comes from winning, self-respect. I haven’t always felt this way, but luckily I had a great role model for a father. He’s had every opportunity to complain about the adversity he’s faced, but instead he’s stood up to it with his code intact and is winning the war, even if he lost a few battles along the way. The biggest compliment I receive is when people tell me how much like him I am. I want him to be proud of who I am and who I will become, so to me there is no choice about whether or not I should be a nice guy. We all start out as boys; some of us just grow into men.