We all find something at least a little envious in the lives of wealthy tech moguls, powerful executives, or famous celebrities. The freedom to do as we please with confidence is an appealing prospect. As exemplified by a great number of these people, there is a basic tenant we can follow to ensure some modicum of this lifestyle in our own day-to-day affairs:
Be an asshole.
1. Focus on yourself ahead of all others.
Everyone else is already watching out for themselves. Why waste time concerning yourself with how you affect them? They can handle themselves. And if they really had a problem, they would say something.
2. Assume you are right.
If someone did disagree with you, they would have said so. When there is no dissenting opinion, yours prevails.
3. When someone does disagree with you, it is an opportunity to educate them.
Talk to them as if they are your student and you are their teacher. Outside of college, most of us don’t get a chance at a higher education. They should relish this moment.
4. If someone gets annoyed at you, it is only because they don’t understand why they are wrong.
Don’t yell. Don’t get angry. Ignore their criticisms and, calmly, with a pleasant smile, explain yourself again. Repeat as many times as necessary, and make sure to use the exact same words each time to let your message really sink in.
5. If YOU are wrong, it’s okay and it’s not your fault.
There are so many things that can go wrong to lead you to an incorrect action or conclusion, through no fault of your own. Many other people had to lead you there through their own incompetence or malicious behavior. Never blame yourself for other people’ stupidity.
6. Do not give antagonists the courtesy of acknowledging your misfortunes.
If you have been led to wrongness, even though it was not your fault, do not give these people that satisfaction of accepting your situation. YOU were not wrong. You have always been right, given the information. Don’t let them walk away thinking they got you. Hold firm to what you knew as right and maintain it. You are stronger than them!
7. Live in the Now.
Every situation and every decision is fresh and new. Even if you were made to be wrong, even if you fought antagonists from making you look foolish or wrong, next time you know exactly what to do. Ignore anyone who says differently, and don’t acknowledge anyone who tries to maintain that you’ve ever done differently; that’s just a last, pitiful attempt to bring you down to their level, and you’re better than that.
There are many ways to be “effective.” Seventy years on and still Mussolini’s “made the trains run on time” joke is still comprehended, and with good reason: tyranny and bullying build hierarchy and order. They also build resentment and loathing and disloyalty, but with careful management practitioners can stave off outright rebellion.
It doesn’t matter though whether the asshole in question is your boss or a coworker, Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, Daenerys Targaryen and her flaming sky rats or a Medici breaking Machiavelli’s arms until he writes Il Principe. Assholes can be very effective, and conversely focusing wholly and singularly on efficacy is a determined path toward assholery.
It is better to be kind than effective.
It is better to be understanding than an asshole.