HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE BY NOT GIVING A $#%&

I took a personality test once that said my personality type gets energy from having something to push off against. Now, I’m not the biggest proponent for personality tests. Often, they’re a way to create self-fulfilling prophecies about ourselves, excuse our own bad behavior, or keep other people in a box.

Maybe I am just excusing my own bad behavior, but I thought this test had a point. I do seem to get a certain amount of energy from having a wall to push off against. According to the test, it’s probably why I spent so many years trying to fit in at a church, I needed a structure to rebel against, rules to oppose, in order to define myself. According to the test, the military or the police force is often a draw to people with my personality, but that’s harder for me to imagine.

I’m still that way. I still like a good fight. I still like to poke and prod. In my more high minded times, I think of myself as a satirist or an iconoclast, but I recognize those are just personas that a jerk uses to operate inside of society, sometimes. To me, I’m helpfully pointing out the king has no clothes, to the rest of the kingdom, I’m just a loudmouth that needs to pipe down.

I used to feel guilty about it. I used to wring my hands and wonder why I was such a jerk and why couldn’t I just keep my mouth shut. Then Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Jordan Peterson suggested it was a good idea to integrate my shadow side — to show my teeth on occasion. I have to admit, when I do it freely, without guilt, without the intention of hurting somebody who (in my estimation) doesn’t deserve it — it feels pretty good. I feel whole. not fractured.

It’s been suggested to me, by a 20 year old bartender, nonetheless, that, as a businessman, I might catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar. No doubt, that’s the prevailing thought among a bunch of business owners — make sure everybody likes you. You never know who you’re alienating. You never know who might have hired you, but won’t, now, because you said something controversial.

Sorry, I don’t subscribe to that line of thinking and I don’t think most truly successful people do. Yes, not taking a stand, not opening your mouth, being cuddly and non-offensive is a great way to make sure nobody ever hates you. But it’s also a great way to make sure your tribe, the people who are really picking up what you’re putting down, never find you. Yeah, you’ll piss off some people. In my experience, those people are rarely a good fit, anyway. Those people want you to mow yards instead of making videos, or pay you with coupons or print ads, instead of… you know… money.

Last week I made some people mad. Once over politics. But it was a guy who stays mad at me and really only understand about half of what I’m saying, anyway. If I wanted him to like me, I’d hedge my bets, dumb down what I’m saying, and never speak out about what I see as bad behavior. Sorry. Not gonna happen. The other time, it was a local business. They took my advocation for the working class as a swipe at them. They weren’t interested in correcting my conception, only in making me behave the way they thought I should. They wanted me to care about the company and follow their determined protocol for airing my grievances. Again, not gonna happen.

So, at the end of the day, my advice to you, if you’re interested in advice from an occasionally controversial jerk, is don’t worry too much about what other people think. You can’t control their reactions. But if you speak your mind, if you’re honest about what you think and care about, bi-partisanship be damned, you’ll attract the people who you should have been hanging out with to begin with. Take it from a guy who’s been kicked out of more than one tribe, there’s always a better fit over the next ridge anyway.