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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

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        Last Updated on November 18, 2019

        How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

        How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

        Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

        Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

        How do we manage that?

        I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

        The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

        How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

          One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

          At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

          After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

          • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
          • She could publish all her articles on time
          • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

          Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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          1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

          When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

          My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

          Use this time to:

          • Look at the big picture.
          • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
          • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

          2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

          This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

          It works like this:

          Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

          By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

            To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

            Low Cost + High Benefit

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            Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

            Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

            High Cost + High Benefit

            Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

            Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

            Low Cost + Low Benefit

            This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

            These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

            High Cost + Low Benefit

            Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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            For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

            Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

              After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

                And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

                Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

                Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

                What to do in these cases?

                Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

                For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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                Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

                  Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

                  The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

                  By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

                  And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

                  Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

                  Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

                  More to Boost Productivity

                  Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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