Getting Ahead by Being Good

There are a lot of rules that I try to follow in business, but the one that's the most important to me didn't come from school, but from my Irish Mom: Be good. My Italian father had a somewhat different take: Don't be a jerk.

Their point was there's no use getting ahead in life, if you're acting like an ass.

One of my favorite CEOs I've ever covered, Paul Orfalea (search), of Kinko's fame, calls it the karma thing: You do something bad now, it catches up with you later.

He recounts the story in his just out remarkable book "Copy This!" of how he once wanted to stick it to a competitor he knew was hiring illegal help. So he snitched on the guy and, within moments, Orfalea got a call from his partner that his company had just been hit with a sales tax audit of its own and owed 50,000 smackers!

"I figured it out right then," he said. "Somebody up there was keeping score."

His point was we have a choice in life. You can be mean and take ethical shortcuts, but whatever you gain now, there's payback later.

My mom was right. Sneakiness only gets you so far. Pulling a fast one on a colleague might land you in the corner office, but I suspect it doesn't mean you'll survive long in that corner office.

There's no corporate rulebook that says that only the twisted and devious need apply.

The best leaders, the most challenging leaders, are those who get ahead not by sticking it to their competitors but by rising above their competitors.

Orfalea, a self-described hyperactive dyslexic who was a disaster as a student, got it brilliantly as a human being.

One thing the Internet boom proved is there is no new math. Earnings matter. Sales matter. Hard work matters.

Shortcuts don't matter, because there are no shortcuts to lasting impressions — and preferably good ones.

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