No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

South African Motivational Speaker Ramon ThomasThere are times in your life when you’ve tried to help people, and it seems it all backfired. This is really the meaning of “no good deed goes unpunished.” And I’m reminded of the failure of friendships every day as I witness how people have withdrawn into themselves either through smartphones or endless downloaded TV shows.

In high school I wrote a angry poem: Nice Guys Finished Last. It was the story of my frustration with being a nice guy, and yet being a lonely guy with no girlfriend. As I reflected upon this poem, it dawned on me that being the nice guy has nothing to do with it. It was clear that I was not being nice to myself. So if I did not respect myself, how could I expect others to do the same.

No good deed goes unpunished – this is a phrase I first heard in some self help audio interviews. The guru was so confident, he almost seemed to be full of himself. I later found out he is a multimillionaire, and I’m sure it didn’t help being rich while making lofty pronouncements.

Since I moved to China in 2013 I tried to spend 80% of my time with Chinese friends. After all I didn’t move half way around the world to meet more foreigners. In my MBA class we are 11 students from all over the world. I was helpful to them as can be being older, more experienced in business. This didn’t work out exactly as planned.

As relationships with my classmates soured, I pulled back. I tried my best to maintain some real friendships until I helped one personal financially. This reminds me of another kind of life lesson: do not mix business with pleasure. In the end I don’t regret helping this particular guy, he just reminded me that no good deed goes unpunished.

You’re far better off helping yourself become the best you can possibly be. You can lead by example, and others will follow. When you help people out of their misery, be careful. You’ve offered them a finger and they may grab your whole arm. The wise among us know that doing less is more.