See, a lot of people tell you that successful friends and relatives suddenly turned into pricks once they had their big breakthrough, that achievements turned them into monsters and that wealth made them modern day assholes. It just seems that being successful ultimately leads you to become a jerk who makes everyone uncomfortable, and truth be told, real life examples really reinforce this notion.
But here is the catch: You’re not a jerk because you’re successful, you’re successful because you were a jerk in the first place. Before you think I’m just another douchebag, let me explain.
Recall when you watched The Social Network or the movie Jobs? Both Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs turned out to be complete assholes before they made it big. I mean Mark screwed over people, and Steve was an arrogant self-centered piece of shit who didn’t think twice before dumping his pregnant girlfriend or his close buddies once Apple started picking up. Why?
Turns out there is a good reason for what they did. Acting like a jerk allows you to tap into several benefits that are crucial for launching a company or building a successful enterprise. One of those benefits is being unlikable, which means you don’t have to deal with a number of friends and relatives who will end up consuming most of your precious time. Instead of being invited to go out have a drink, you’re alone in your office killing it and building great things. Instead of going on vacation to visit your BFF, you’re in NYC or Hong Kong riding the subway 10 hours a day to meet investors and advertisers. Launching a venture means that you give up social life for a while, at least all the aspects of it that are ceremonial and follow a certain protocol. Simply put, YOU DON’T HAVE TIME!
Being nice when what’s needed is being efficient can be a disaster. Giving your best friend an executive position in the company just because you like him, or giving away money to compensate those who stood with you in the early days of the startup can be unwise financially. Being nice blinds you to the fact that your work should be to protect the enterprise, the product, not friendships.
Time is of essence, in fact, time is the only resource you ever have when building something great, so giving away those minutes and hours for the sake of coming across as friendly is a waste of resources, at the least in your early startup stage. You will have to smile and have lunches of course, but with people who are critical to your venture: test users, investors, mentors and advisors.
Moreover, being a jerk allows you to be direct, filtering through the bullshit and treating everyone the same way. It doesn’t matter if Joe or Erica is your best friend, if she does a shit job or if he’s moving slowly, you gotta be hard on him like any other employee or partner. They may be your friends, but they are first part of a venture in the making, and that supersedes any social considerations or connections.
And here comes the good news: It’s temporary.
Yes, you don’t have to be a jerk all your life, once you go over that steep hill and your enterprise or initiative picks up steam, you can relax and give more time to build a nice personality people can relate to. In fact, people will like you anyways if what you built is great, that’s why Steve Jobs is still hailed as one of the greatest people ever. When you are of value to society, when your mission is to uplift a whole world, then your close social circles can be deemed a worthy sacrifice. Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg made history not because they spent time with their friends, they made history because they changed the lives of hundreds of millions out there.
That, my friends, is what we call being selfless, limitless, working for the many and not the few, and if some see it as being a jerk, so be it.
Photo Credit: The Social Network