Revenge is Easy, Kindness is Hard

I once got two guys fired because they pissed me off. But, before we get to that, some context…


In the psychological literature, the Big Five personality traits are considered the gold standard for understanding human behavior. These traits include:

  • openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
  • extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)
  • neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)

Everyone reading this sentence lies somewhere on the spectrum of each of these five traits. You could be introverted and agreeable, or conscientious and neurotic, or some other unique combination of the traits above. These traits are a big part of why you are the way you are.

Relative to the rest of the population, I’d say I am pretty open to new experiences (70th percentile), extremely conscientious (99th percentile), highly extraverted (90th percentile), pretty agreeable (70th percentile), and somewhat neurotic (65th percentile).

I’m telling you all of this because it was my agreeableness (or lack thereof) that got two men, let’s call them Tom and Jeff, fired from a side project. You have to understand that I’m a nice guy. I really am. I’ve had friends tell me that “you get along with everyone,” and I believe them. But, this is only true to a point. If I think you’ve seriously wronged me, I can turn into one of the most disagreeable people you will ever meet. That’s what happened to Tom and Jeff.

Tom and Jeff were web developers that used to work for my then company on a project basis. They weren’t employees, but they got paid by my firm each and every month. When I got hired I was told that I would be overseeing Tom and Jeff’s technical work, a responsibility previously done by my boss. Unfortunately, Tom and Jeff didn’t see it that way.

Nearly anytime I asked them to do something, they ignored me. I’d ask for an update to a website that would take 10 minutes to do and they would take days to get it done. However, anytime my boss reached out to them, they usually got back to him within hours, not days. It was frustrating to say the least.

But, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I was new. They didn’t know me or understand my role. It makes sense why they wouldn’t respect me yet. I just needed time. Well…I was wrong.

Weeks turned into months and my relationship with Tom and Jeff didn’t improve. More sent messages were followed by more moments of silence. No response. Left on read. At one point I told Tom and Jeff, “You guys need to communicate with me because my boss doesn’t have time to manage this anymore,” but they didn’t listen.

One day it all came to a head. I needed something done urgently and, once again, Tom and Jeff ignored me. I pleaded with them. I begged them to get back to me, but nothing. Radio silence.

I was fuming inside. At that moment, I knew exactly what I had to do. I was going to learn web development and cut them out of this process altogether.

Over the next three weeks I devoured everything I could on HTML, CSS, and WordPress. Every waking moment was dedicated to this singular goal. I skipped the gym. I didn’t go out. It was web development, web development, and more web development. I took a few online courses (which I paid for out of my own pocket), did some coding challenges, and built my first website. Anything I could do to learn the ropes. After roughly 60 hours of study, I was ready.

I approached my boss and told him that we didn’t need Tom and Jeff anymore. I could update our company website all by myself. He was skeptical, but I told him to test me. So he did. He told me to make a few changes and get back to him when I was done.

I walked back to my computer and within minutes I had completed what he wanted. I told my boss and he loved it. While I wasn’t as good as Tom and Jeff at web development, I was much faster. What took them hours to respond to, I could fix right away.

A few weeks later my boss fired Tom and Jeff. I was elated. Almost immediately after hearing the news I saw an incoming call from Tom on my cell phone. “Oh, now you want to talk? Now you have time for me?” I thought to myself. Nope. I ignored the call. In fact, I never spoke to Tom or Jeff ever again.

I’m not gonna lie, their firing was one of my most joyous moments in life. Pure schadenfreude. Pure happiness in their misery. After all, Tom and Jeff had ignored to me. They had utterly disrespected me. They deserved it, right?

I thought so at the time, but, looking back now, I regret feeling that way. I was wrong. I was far too hard on them and didn’t see it from their perspectives.

Tom and Jeff did have full time jobs after all. Maybe they couldn’t respond during the day. Maybe they were stressed out in other parts of their life. Maybe they were overwhelmed with the many requests I had sent them. I don’t know. Either way, my reaction to their firing was immature. It was the response of a much younger man.

I was reminded of my time with Tom and Jeff after the crypto bloodbath that took place last week. Many crypto investors lost their life savings when the stablecoin UST and its native token Luna collapsed into a financial death spiral. Since then multiple suicides have been reported and many others (including people I know) have been financially ruined by this set of unfortunate events.

I understand the temptation to make fun of these people. I understand the temptation to get revenge. Trust me, I’ve done it before. It feels good to dunk on people who’ve told you to “have fun staying poor.”

But, this time is different. This time I’d ask you to show some restraint. This time I’d ask you to take a moment and be kind instead. Because we are all losing money right now. Some more than others. As Cullen Roche recently tweeted:

$35 trillion dollars gone. Like a gas poured into the stratosphere.

So is now the time to make enemies? Or is now the time for compassion? The time for understanding? The time for realizing that we all make mistakes?

I’ll admit that I haven’t been as gracious as I could have been online. I haven’t always been nice. But I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to remember that there’s a human on the other side of that screen. A human with feelings, dreams, and aspirations. With a past and a future. A human just like you and me.

So before you send off your next dunk, take a second and remember that human. Because revenge is easy, but kindness is hard. Thank you for reading.

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This is post 295. Any code I have related to this post can be found here with the same numbering: https://github.com/nmaggiulli/of-dollars-and-data


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