The following is excerpted from What Would Jackie Do? An Inspired Guide to Distinctive Living, by Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway. Gotham Books, 2006. via http://blog.guykawasaki.com/.
Noblesse Oblige for Beginners: How to Be a Goodwill Ambassador to Strangers, Colleagues, Malcontents
Jackie preferred hailing taxis to get about in New York City. And in those yellow chariots, she would sometimes lean forward and do what so few ever bother to do: ask how the driver’s day was going. In one case, she beseeched the cabbie to quit his shift in order to get home safely in soggy weather. What good is it, after all, to be a cut above if you don’t let your own splendid qualities trickle down to others?
Coddle bit players. It’s terribly wicked not to give props to all of the people who make your path smoother in life. These include the doorman, the mailman—and if you’re so lucky—the cook and pilot. In Jackie’s case, the list also extended to all sorts of minor politicos. Go beyond tips and nods. As a campaign wife, Jackie was able to recall the names, unprompted, or umpteen mayors and convention delegates. And in the White House, she stunned her new staff by properly addressing members upon their first face-to-face meeting.
Don’t (publicly) criticize your enemies or opponents. Leave such base behavior to modern-day politicians and reality show contestants. Particularly resist the temptation to bad-mouth people by e-mail: There’s nothing worse than electronic slurs, which can be endlessly forwarded. Though surrounded by enemies (political) and jealous types (frumpy women), Jackie refused to get nasty. During the 1960 campaign, she declined to take potshots at Hubert Humphrey. And two decades later, when Nancy Reagan got swamped with negative publicity, Jackie waxed empathetic, going so far as to call her to offer advice on handling the press.
Tap higher powers to help the helpless. After you’ve maxed out your immediate resources, look to your left and right, above and below to harness those six degrees of separation between you and the solution to the problem at hand. Don’t be too proud to ask an influential friend to step in on behalf of someone you know—even if the two have never met. That’s what connections are really for.
In 1980 Jackie summoned medical philanthropist Mary Lasker to help an impoverished sick boy, the son of a manicurist, gain access to proper treatment. As a follow-up to the favor, Jackie wrote her friend Mary a heartfelt note: “Now they don’t feel that they are just a cipher because they are poor,” she scrawled on her Doubleday stationery. “Whatever happens, they know that someone with a noble heart made it possible for them to get the best care they could.”
Turn the other silken cheek. Sometimes you must show people what you are made of by staying elevated when you’d least like to—say, when someone zips into your primo parking space, or snatches the last pair of Loro Piana gloves on sale at Bergdorf’s. Like Jackie, you’d do well to let mild acts of ugliness pass without much fuss.
Traveling with Thomas Hoving, then-director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jackie was stunned—and frightened—by the French paparazzi who swarmed her at a low-key Left Bank restaurant. An infuriated Hoving returned to their hotel, the Plaza Athenee, and demanded that the doorman who disclosed their whereabouts be fired. Informing Jackie of the fait accompli, Hoving recalls, “She got mad at me.” She said: “You suffered a man’s livelihood because of that?”
Mute the call of mammon. The classiest cash is also the quietest. So if you’re fortunate enough to have an endless supply of crisp bills, just don’t crumple them under the noses of those with less. This doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of fine things. Certainly our lady did not. But wealth does require you to be somewhat stealth about what you’ve got.
Don’t gab on about money, either—yours, your parents’, your boyfriend’s—or your over-the-top plans for it. When Jackie received a $26 million settlement from Aristotle Onassis’s estate, society types needled the widow about how she intended to spend the windfall. “You don’t talk about things like that,” was her stunned reply.
To be a cut above, don’t cut. Even if your social status or connections somehow permit it, resist any temptation to leapfrog over more common folks. This means no line-jumping at Disney World, no flashing that Burberry plaid to snare the next cab. In New York, Jackie waited in crowds like everybody else—or avoided them altogether—rather than nudge her way to the front of movie-house and museum queues.