Not everyone likes the bravado and iron fisted action of the successful but we have to let them just be who they really are, Here’s why
Every Society needs particular individuals to do its dirty work. People that aren’t afraid to make tough decisions, ask uncomfortable questions, put themselves and their future on the line, and to be somewhat unscrupulous in getting their way. You may not like how they get results, but I guarantee you will like (and do like) the results of their actions.
We live in a time where people are always trying to apply their own values on other people. Just look at our polarized society today working to get others to bend to their will. They are basically saying, “You have to think like me or I will make you think like me. If not, the cost you will pay is in the court of public opinion.” Nearly every controversy we see today in the US from political, to news media, to socio economic spectrums are nothing more than shouting heads saying, “You have to like me and think like me!”
Just try and prove me wrong!
With all the “be like me” rhetoric going on in our popular culture, we forget that we need the contrarians in our world if we are ever going to do better. The ones that break all the rules of society’s accepted constructs and pushes the limits of popular customs. This idea causes a lot of heartburn. Just think how all the people who wanted to “Be like Mike” back in the 1990s Jordan era, felt once they watched The Last Dance in 2020. What we knew as the clean cut moral character of a champion, (The MJ we all knew and media portrayed), actually turned out to be a cold blooded killer of basketball, completely void of emotions and empathy for others. He was plain and simply… an asshole! Personally I am not judging it. He did what he had to do to be the GOAT but, it’s not the kind of persona your parents wanted you to aspire to when you were a kid!
How else are we going to have innovation, the superstars to aspire to, or enjoy the modern conveniences and the unappalled health care of our time if we don’t let the high risk takers and the contrarians of the world be who they really are? One of the things you’ll find out is these types of people, by the nature of the work they want to do, are generally not the type you will want to be close friends with. Once you peel back the layers like in the film, The last Dance, you will find many high level achievers are actually quite savage in character. They have little or no compunction for others feelings, they are generally absent of moral hygiene, and do not play well with others in ethical compression chambers. They just don’t care and there is nothing you can do to change that.
Jack Welch was regarded as one of Americas greatest CEO between the years of 1981 and 2001. He literally save GE during its darkest days bringing it back to being one of the most successful companies in the world. Jack spent his retirement years speaking and doing leadership training for business leaders. He was all smiles and pleasantries during his speaking events and leadership camps. He was like your fun grandpa! But during Jack’s 20 year run as CEO of GE, he was Genghis Khan! Pounding on his desk with his iron fist demanding nothing but superlative perfection in the work GE was doing!
Here’s something to think about that the next time you are on a flight. Do you want a nice Jack Welch that was understanding, empathic, and built a fun company culture at GE building the jet engine under your airplane or do you want the relentless tyrant Jack Welch that demanded perfection at all costs in building that jet engine? It’s a question that plays a real moral and business culture dilemma in today’s more sensitive business atmosphere.
You may not want to be friends with a brain surgeon
What’s wrong with having the high-functioning psychopath creating our new technologies, curating new discoveries, and saving lives anyway? We all enjoy the ease of life and the entertainment technology affords us. We like the security of our money being protected, growing in high preforming stock accounts being invested in a way that is beneficial to us and our family. We like knowing our health care professionals are on top of their game so we can live a long, happy, and healthy life.
The people who create this magic for us generally do not like the company of others or the social niceties that are expected. What they do like are the exquisite perfection of their actions and the superlative results of their work.
Understand, business and politics alone does not have a monopoly on high functioning psychopaths in the work place. Why wouldn’t you want your child’s brain surgeon to have his emotional intelligence, friendliness, compassion, and empathy dials turned all the way off and his antisocial dials of focus, mental toughness, coolness under pressure, egocentric, and the unbending will to succeed is turned all the way up? Do you want to be friends with him or do you want him to save your child’s life? Most of the time you cannot have it both ways. It’s just how these people are.
Benefits of the dirty work
The most amazing things, greatest technologies, and conveniences we all know and enjoy come from the minds of people who only love the results of their work. While we too love the results of their work that make our lives much better, no one ever said these people were clean, moral, or upstanding citizens. No one ever sees the dirty work it takes to have a successfully functioning society.
We’ll call this guy David. The David’s of successful industries do exist. In this story, our David is the most successful stock broker in his company. He specializes in managing hundreds of millions of dollars of average working class peoples 401K’s and pension funds for many of the worlds companies globally.
“I love the working class people” David says, “They are a much better people than I am. That’s why I like working on their funds!”
From factory workers to truck drivers to pediatricians, David is making hardworking average people’s futures secure and certain. “Because of the work I do every day, the average hard working Joe will have no problem taking the grandkids to Disneyland for a 7 day vacation” David says. Even though the work David does has an incredible benefit for the average working class people, David has a dark side. We will never know just what it is that makes him so good at the work he does but it has a lot to do with how he’s engineered his life and accesses his dark side Mr. Hyde.
David has never married and only focuses on his work. He owns a huge luxury estate where he likes living alone. He collects exotic supercars and classic muscle cars. To feed his addiction to making money for other people (and himself) when he’s not at work, he delights in racing very fast cars during the day and at night in his estate, with cocaine, and younger women. Welcome to David’s dark side! David says, “It gives me something else to conquer when the markets are closed. You know… something to keep the demons happy! You may not like it that I live this way, but you will love the results when you decide to retire.”
I’m sure the dark side of David’s personality isn’t only when he’s at home. To be the highest performing fund manager in his company we can be sure that there are strong armed moves and dealings and the crushing of other people to get the results his customers want. Society needs people like David to do its dirty work. We shouldn’t take it personally or judge it, it’s just business and the life of a man that does whatever it takes to gets results.
Success at all costs
People like John D Rockefeller, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Jack Welch, and Pat Riley were absolutely tyrannical in getting their way and succeeding at all costs. If you did not do it their way on your own, they would make you do it their way. Rockefeller lived for long term protracted battles with is adversaries. He enjoyed it! He knew that most people just didn’t have the stomach for it and would eventually bow to his unrelenting will.
Steve Jobs was notorious for being the most powerful man in the room whether he was there or not. His presence and his absences was equally felt. At times Jobs would wonder into the office of an Apple employee he did not know and ask, “What are you working on?” If that wasn’t enough to strike unparalleled intimidation, Jobs would spend the entire day with the employee, just the two of them, all day! Jobs just sitting there and asking lots of questions and making sure the work was way beyond the standard with a total disregard for his other obligations in the company that day.
We want our business leaders and our pro athlete hero’s to be just like us. We see them on the media and they seem nice and confirmative and we believe that their genius is talent and inborn giftedness. Tiger Woods smiles for the camera with that all American face but under that smile lurks a predator of the game. Jobs soft voice of virtuosity explains the newest technology you are going to enjoy while under those average black turtleneck is the heart of a killer for perfection. Seeing this facade is a much easier way of comparing their lives to our own and relieves our psyche of the pressure to do better ourselves. People assume they are just on a higher level, just better than the rest of us!
We want to work for companies with founders and bosses that think like us and are compassionate and empathic to our needs and lives. Even the founders of big companies have played this card on their following to seem more normal, more beguile, and a “man of the people” just like you. The multimillionaire founder of Gravity Payments is constantly tweeting that he is just a normal guy, he just got lucky, and apologizes for his success.
But as the saying goes, “You do not want to get to know your hero’s.” Likely, your hero’s do have utilitarianism in them but you will find it is more rooted in creating value for others and themselves over prescribed actions that maximize happiness and well-being for all affected individuals. These are the people with the warrior gene and predatory instincts on high, ruthlessly biting the bullet for the greater good of society through action and results.
I think you will find that high level achievers understand one fundamental truth to succeeding with such superiority and dominance. You have to be completely void of fear of being who you really are and completely unapologetic about it! You have to have fear immunity, a zero tolerance on anxiety when it comes to being comfortable in your skin.
If we want great technologies, modern convienicnes and superlitive health care, we have to let the highest achieveing individuals be exactly who they were made to be!
Daniel J Bockman