What’s Wrong With Nice?

This week, the world lost Jeopardy host Alex Trebek.  Trebek, 80, had been battling pancreatic cancer.  By all accounts, Trebek was decent and hard working.  He was authoritative without being authoritarian.  Many, many people have used the word “nice” in their summations of Trebek’s character.

Several years ago, before a friend’s outdoor wedding, I was an unfortunate, captive audience to an over-the-top bragging about children’s accomplishments.  The people sitting in front of me, regaled the folks sitting next to them with stories of their children’s private schools, their athletic prowess and their ivy league college prospects for almost 20 minutes before the ceremony began.

At the time my own children were working, paying their bills, and embracing a diverse circle of friends both shared and individually.  In the month prior to that wedding, the oldest one stood up for co-workers and dealt with a racist bully.   The youngest bought a meal for a homeless man in our town and stayed to get to know him a little.  I thought then, and I still believe, that we need different metrics to measure success.  Alex Trebek’s death reminds me of this.

Why should over- achieving, wealth, workaholism and fame be the only yardsticks of success?  Why can’t decent, nice, hard-working humans be considered successful?  Trebek was beloved.  I haven’t been able to find a single negative thing which has been written about him.  Instead of fostering a sense of drama, Trebek had a sense of humor.  When diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Trebek noted that the prognosis “was not very encouraging.”  Still, instead of publicly saying “woe is me”, he quietly kept working vowing to fight the disease.

Nice is really underrated and undervalued.  In a divisive world, where people are often angry and anxious, nice is actually refreshing.  Let’s make nice something to work toward instead of something we belittle.  Everything I’ve read about Alex Trebek points to his being “nice” and we loved him for it.  Let’s use Trebek as an example. Let’s reevaluate what success actually looks like.

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