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Do You Need to Be a Jerk to Become Successful?

Do You Need to Be a Jerk to Become Successful?

Steve Jobs is probably the easiest-to-recall example of a successful person with a well-known history of being a jerk. He’s not the only one, though. Jeff Bezos, the architect of Amazon and currently one of the richest men in the world, has also been labeled as a jerk by others. Beyond the tech industry, there are also examples. Tucker Max, a well-known author, literally leads the “About” section of his website with this:[1]

“My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead. But, I do contribute to humanity in one very important way. I share my adventures with the world.”

    At this point, we need to stop and ask: do you need to be a jerk to be successful?

    Kindness as weakness?

    Jobs, Max, Bezos, and guys like Jordan Belfort (the main character in The Wolf of Wall Street) are some core examples of the prevailing idea that if you want to be rich and successful, you need to be a jerk.

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      That idea is underpinned by another idea: kindness as weakness. When you meet someone who is kind and goes out of their way for others, that’s typically a great feeling. Those people are rare. But over time, you’ll notice that person get taken advantage of. They get hurt time and again by others. You get mad. Your friend shouldn’t be treated like that.

      Over time, you start to wonder: why won’t they stand up for themselves? Are they too passive? Are they worried about the opinions of others?

      Kindness should be a cornerstone element of the human condition because it connects us together in positive ways. But too often it’s seen as a weakness, or a personality aspect to exploit.

      Especially in a business context—often very competitive, where losing an advantage could mean bankruptcy— people move in the completely opposite direction. Instead of being kind, they are jerks. This is a pathway to power and control.

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      What’s behind the jerks

      This is what is commonly missed in these “You must be a jerk to be successful” discussions: success comes from many inputs.

        If someone is a complete jerk 100 percent of the time, they likely won’t be successful long-term. Rather, they will become selfish, self-centered and have lots of blind spots. They’ll keep taking other’s advantages and never making any sacrifice, which makes people hate them. When no one is willing to trust and support them, they have to work all alone even at tough times, hindering the chance

        How do you explain someone like Steve Jobs, then? He was a jerk and he was very successful.

        In that case, you have to look at what Jobs was trying to accomplish. He legitimately wanted to change the world. His focus was on making that happen, and he largely did — his products completely changed six industries including animated movies, digital publishing, music, personal computers, phones and tablet computing.[2] Because his focus was on product design at a world-shifting level, he let other priorities (i.e. relationships) slide, and was often a jerk to people because they were in the way of his vision. His success came from his passion and skill sets. It didn’t come from him being a jerk.

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        Tucker Max had a passion for telling interesting stories in new ways. That’s where his success came from. It’s similar to Jobs in some ways: passion was the driver, and passion also caused him to be perceived as a jerk along the way.

        How much do you want success?

        It’s never about deciding to be a successful jerk or an unsuccessful nice guy. It’s all about the kind of success you want to lead. When you know the type of success you want, you’ll put your passion into that.

        This will require a laser focus of how you spend your time, your thoughts, and even your emotions. Other things that don’t contribute that much to your ultimate goal will get sacrificed.

        It doesn’t mean you have to become a jerk, though. It only means you might not be as good with people as you are with your “big idea.”

        No one is perfect, and sometimes we sacrifice the relationships for the end goal. It doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk, but it’s one potential consequence.

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        The best path is to be wise and know the type of success you are looking for, then take stock of where you are making sacrifices. If not being seen as a jerk is important to you, you’ll have to adjust a little bit how you deal with others.

        Focus both on the end goal and on what it’s taking to get there.

        Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Brian Lee

        Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

        How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) 7 Best Project Management Apps to Boost Productivity 100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes

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        Last Updated on January 21, 2020

        What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

        What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

        Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

        Can I Be Creative?

        The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

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        How Creativity Works

        Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

        What Really Is Creativity?

        Creativity Needs an Intention

        Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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        Creativity Is a Skill

        At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

        Start Connecting the Dots

        Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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