Asshole Envy and the Value of Extreme Focus

What do Simon Cowell, Steve Jobs, Dr. House, Bill Belichick, and Donald Trump have in common?

They’re all assholes… but lots of people (including me) love them anyway. Why is that?

Maybe its envy. Deep down, we would all like to be able to say anything to anyone, cause trouble without consequence, and act without caring what others think.

But we don’t do it.

We can’t bear the shame of becoming an asshole. We’ve been conditioned by centuries of faithful mothers teaching us to mind our manners. We are proud of being polite.

Except… could that be the problem?

I know about a dozen people that make over $1 million per year, and I’d imagine all of them are called assholes on a regular basis. The two seem to go hand in hand, and I think there are reasons why.

Extreme Success Requires Extreme Focus

If you want to be successful, you have to focus. We all know that, but I don’t think many of us understand it.

Focusing means giving one objective all of your attention and ignoring everything else. Dr. House from the House M.D. TV show focuses on saving people’s lives, and nothing else matters to him. He’s willing to cheat, lie, steal, manipulate, and coarse in the pursuit of that end. And it works.

The wealthiest people in the world use the same approach with their finances. Frequently, they’ll:

  • Leave behind a trail of broken marriages and forgotten children
  • Lose the life savings of their friends and relatives on an ingenious but doomed business
  • Refuse to lend anyone money or give to charity
  • Avoid unnecessary expenses to the point of miserliness
  • Treat everyone that can’t help them as if they’re expendable

We hold up cases like those as “how not to be successful,” but really, I think it’s exactly the opposite. The amount of wealth you’ll accumulate in this lifetime depends on how willing you are to put money ahead of everything else.

Frugal investors become millionaires because they’re willing to give up immediate gratification and luxury for a few decades. Successful entrepreneurs become billionaires because they invest every ounce of their life in the business and convince others to do the same. In each case, someone will inevitably labeled them as a miser, workaholic, or asshole, but they don’t care.

For them, it’s worth the trade-off. So ask yourself: how much are you willing to trade?

Are you willing to let some people think you’re an asshole?