Through a simple childhood story, Jeff Bezos illustrates a very powerful lesson.
“It’s harder to be kind than to be clever. It’s the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift. Kindness is a choice.”
Intelligence is often a given depending on our professions, our schooling, or our parents. However, the difference between cleverness and kindness became apparent to me in business school, where I found that kindness was a choice for many, and one they seldom did not make because of the bitter competition they faced from their peers. In team projects or at recruiting events, where one’s performance depended on the performance of others, people often chose cleverness over kindness. That’s probably why Jeff Bezos decided to highlight this difference in his Princeton graduation address.
I believe intelligence is an important attribute. It matters in every aspect of life to ensure that we enjoy interactions, stay challenged, and keep learning from each other. But by choosing kindness we ensure those relationships remain a recurring part of our lives.
As Bezos points out, “At the age of 80, will you take pride in your gifts or in your choices?”