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Last Updated on February 1, 2018

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 13, 2018

        Do You Want to Know the Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life?

        Do You Want to Know the Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life?

        Don’t we all want to live a full, happy and satisfied life? For some of us, it need not be a long life as long as it’s been a fulfilling life of achievements, happiness and no regrets. But, how many of us actually go on to experience that entirely? It sometimes sounds more like a pipe dream–a fantasy rather than reality.

        And then you’ll also get comments from some, saying that this ‘fulfilling life’ is only possible if you’re so rich that you don’t have to care about working, paying the bills or providing for your family. While there is some truth to that, I’m happy to say that financial freedom isn’t the only answer to living a fulfilling life.

        Living a Fulfilling Life is Within Reach

        Anyone can pursue a life of fullness, and it all starts with the willingness to learn. How many years has it been since you last attended a class in school? If you’re well into your adult years as a working professional, chances are it’s been a while. Do you remember the times where you had to wake up for early morning lectures? Or the times where you were rushing through a paper or project? And, of course there were the endless exams that you had to cram for.

        As a young college student, I remember looking forward to the time when I would finally be done with school! No more homework, no more grades to worry about, no more stress! The learning was finally done and I could enter the working world.

        Not so much!

        Now that I’ve finally entered the working world, there are moments where I do wish to be a student again; it seemed less stressful then!

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        There is simply so much out there that I still need to learn and experience. Yet I find myself pressed for time. With family commitments, my business and my own social life to juggle, I’ve had to keep on finding for new ways to learn and absorb new information efficiently. Over the years, I’ve found that by learning new skills and knowledge, I was able to find answers and solutions to my problems, which allowed me to achieve a greater sense of fulfillment.

        Learning Never Ends

        The truth is, learning never ends. Generally speaking, it is true that a formal education and the resulting qualifications are important in securing good jobs; jobs that allow you to excel, earn more and perhaps become more successful in our chosen career. But going to school is only one type of learning. All throughout your life, you’re learning in many ways. All these experiences shape and grow you into the person that you are today.

        There are many opportunities to further your knowledge and develop the skills you need throughout life. Knowledge can be acquired and skill-sets can be developed anywhere. However, lifelong learning is about creating and maintaining a positive attitude to learning both for personal and professional development.

        Many people overlook the fact that learning can take place anywhere and in many forms. Most would tend to think of learning as the years spent in a learning institute, which occurs mostly in their younger days. And once you go out into the working world, your ‘learning’ ends.

        This is not how it has to be–in fact, lifelong learning is a gift that keeps on giving.

        The Importance of Lifelong Learning

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        Why is it important to become a lifelong learner?

        A lifelong learner is motivated to learn and develop because they want to; it is a deliberate and voluntary act. Lifelong learning can enhance our understanding of the world around us, provide us with more and better opportunities, and improve our quality of life.

        You’ll Remain Relevant in the Workplace

        With advancements in society today, the human life expectancy continues to increase, which means more people are also retiring at a later age. So no matter what stage of life you’re in, being a lifelong learner brings its own rewards. It means we can get more personal satisfaction from our lives and jobs as we understand more about who we are and what we do.

        This can lead to better results and a more rewarding working day in turn. Whether it’s for advancing your career, a personal interest or wanting to pursue new dreams, learning automatically pushes you forward towards progress and enhances your wellbeing.

        You’ll Increase Your Earning Potential

        From a financial point of view, a more highly skilled and knowledgeable worker is an asset to any company. This also leads to faster promotion with associated salary increases.

        Someone who can offer more expertise will be of more value not just to employers but also to customers. Expertise is also, often, a key quality of an effective leader.

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        And since you’ll constantly be accumulating knowledge, you’ll have an edge on those who don’t value lifelong learning and can’t bring as much to the table. Your extra knowledge will translate into transferable skills, which means you’ll always be primed to blow the competition out of the water.

        Learning Gives You Options

        Of course, one of the most rewarding reasons for continuous learning, is that it gives you options! Successfully changing career path in mid-life and spending time informally developing expertise is more common than ever, especially during rapidly changing market conditions.

        Whatever your age, it’s never too late to start fresh in life. When you start educating yourself and exposing yourself to new knowledge and information, you widen your opportunities. This will allow you to do more than what you may currently be doing, or give you a way out if you’re not happy or fulfilled with where you’re at now.

        Our economy is shifting increasingly towards short-term and part-time contracts with more flexible work-patterns. We have to adapt to changes going on in the work-world, make more of ourselves by stepping out of our comfort zones, and break the false ideas about our potential and how we believe life is going.

        Gain More with Cornerstone Skills

        You may be well into your career, but feel like somehow, something is still missing. Or maybe you’re not entirely happy with where you’re at in your career path and feel it’s time to reflect and perhaps do something new. Or you might be thinking of retiring soon, and thinking about next steps after retirement.

        The learning never needs to stop!

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        This can be your chance to go after a dream or interest that you’ve always had (but never had the opportunity, or time, to pursue). This could finally be the time for you to create the change that you know you should have made ages ago.

        Why not take the first step to learn about 7 important Cornerstone Skills, which will help take your life to the next stage?

        Whatever situation you’re in, having these 7 Cornerstone Skills will no doubt equip you to tackle the challenges of life much more efficiently. Don’t let age, your limitations or a comfort zone stop you from seeking greater rewards and self-improvement.

        Transformation and change is in your hands–you have the power to make big things happen, and we can help teach you the skills. Don’t let life pass you by! It’s time to pursue a fulfilling and happy life.

        Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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