It’s a counter intuitive piece of advice. “Be an asshole” sounds like you’re telling someone to be mean or hurtful. It feels like a move that might impact their reputation or affect their work.
But this advice resonated with me deeply today.
Well, in my professional life, my default setting is to help wherever I can. Do an intro when someone needs one, act as a reference on an application, give support on an idea when someone is launching a startup.
And this has brought me immense joy. It’s helped me form beautiful friendships and allowed to delight in the success of the people around me. I’ve gotten to cap my mentee at graduation, start a successful business with someone who just came for advice, and be a small part of helping someone get the biggest scholarship in the world. And with these relationships, the impact on me has been as much, if not greater than what the impact has been for them
There are two problems though. The first is in situations where the person only takes what they want before moving on. This (mostly) happens unintentionally, but can result in a negative cycle of resentment that becomes really hard to shake. And regardless of whether the person meant to do this to you or not, it can damage the relationship permanently and leave a really bitter taste.
The second problem is when you’re battling through a situation yourself and have a complete lack of capacity to help effectively. In this case, trying to help someone may actually push you into a state of burnout.
And this where the airline safety announcements get it spot on… Put your oxygen mask on before helping put the masks on people around you.
Because if you are incapacitated, there is very little help you can give.
And this is why, sometimes, you need to be an asshole. It might frustrate someone who needs you, or anger someone demanding your time. But if you don’t lay down your boundaries and care for yourself first, it leaves you incapable of being able to help the people that you really want to help.
So yes. Sometimes, it’s good to be an asshole.