How to judge people

failureAm I a failure?

Let’s look at the evidence.

I went to a state university and left after three years.

I dropped out of graduate school.

My first marriage lasted less than five years and ended in divorce. I was left with nothing.

My first job was writing software manuals.

I’ve never joined a company with more than 150 people in it.

I was laid off from my last two jobs. All my other jobs lasted three years or less each.

I’m currently earning next to nothing.

I gained 80 pounds after college.

I had chronic back problems, ate poorly, and never exercised.

Every book I’ve written has had someone else’s name on the cover alongside mine. Each book I publish sells less than the last one.

My teenage children have made choices that would horrify some people.

All these things are true. But perhaps there’s more to the story. These things are also true:

I was the best math student at Penn State in decades, graduating in 3 years with a 4.0 average.

I earned a National Science Foundation Fellowship and accepted MIT’s offer to join their Ph.D. program in mathematics.

I’ve been happily married for over 25 years.

I’ve worked at the company that invented the spreadsheet and at the most creative and influential market research company in the world.

Every company I’ve ever worked for has gone public or been acquired.

I worked for one company for 20 years and became one of the most respected analysts in the industry.

I’ve presented to top management teams at ABC, Best Buy, Charles Schwab, Cisco, Clear Channel, Comcast, EMI, HBO, Hearst, Home Depot, Lifetime, Microsoft, MTV Networks, NBC, Panasonic, Rogers, Samsung, Sony, Tribune, Viacom, Vulcan Ventures, and Walmart .

My house is paid off and my children will not need to borrow money to go to college.

I’ve lost 40 pounds and am still dropping.

I cured my own back problems through exercise. I’ve ridden my bike from Boston to New York City.

My blog gets 50,000 views a month.

I’ve collaborated with incredible talents like Charlene Li, Ted Schadler, Kerry Bodine, Harley Manning, James McQuivey, and Julie Ask. Books that I cowrote have sold more than 200,000 copies and been translated into more than a dozen languages.

My teenage children are independent thinkers who have a bright future.

How would you judge me now?

That’s the problem with judging people: the assessment you make depends on which part of their story you see.

Think about these stories the next time you meet someone. Though you know something about them, there’s a lot you don’t know. It might change your mind.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@jbernoff”]Don’t judge people until you know the whole story. And you’ll never know the whole story.[/tweetthis]

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  1. Again, spot on. I look forward to your blogs every day in my inbox. From the first time I heard the title of your blog, I knew it was the one for me.

  2. Once again, your post made my day. Your reminder about not judging people can be applied to ourselves too.
    I’m a proud Penn State grad too … although it took me five years and my GPA was not a 4.0 … LOL.

  3. We know we are being judged every day, so we come up with stories that mold around what we want to be perceived. On the other hand judging people is inevitable, what’s important is catching yourself doing it.

    I’m amazed how such storytelling can change my perception about you, Jeff. The first half, I felt sorry for you man. Then comes the second half, this version is much more like what I would imagine you to be. Am I judging again?