on the topic of a**holes

if you meet an asshole in the morning, you’ve met an asshole. if you meet assholes all day long, maybe you’re the asshole.” — anon

brilliant. have you been one? against my best attempts i’ve been called one. for most of my career i’ve had the pleasure of working with the finest people and doing what i love so a**holes are a rarity in my work. but i’ve run into my share; i’ve worked for my share. the only a**holes i run into now are those certifiable ones. the rest i’ve learned to deal with — shed my own load, so to speak, so they don’t really affect me. the certifiable ones can be indestructible.

i recently tested at the a**hole rating self-exam (ARSE) website. it’s a simple t/f test of 24 questions. your score is based on the number of trues you select. i scored in the 0 to 5 range: “You don’t sound like a certified asshole…unless you’re kidding yourself.” phew.

the test aside, it’s a spurious thing and a specious thing; i see it most by drivers on the road here — ‘why would you behave like that?’ i constantly ask myself. according to Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), the security we feel inside our cars insulates us from what’s outside and our behaviors change. i made the book mandatory reading for my teens before they were allowed behind the wheel.

John Cheese is attributed to saying, “Sometimes being a nice person is all about knowing when to be an asshole.” i can kind of get that. more of an obnoxious tough-love perhaps. Frank Zappa, in his book, weighed in with this: “A drug is not bad. A drug is a chemical compound. The problem comes in when people who take drugs treat them like a license to behave like an asshole.” i like Frank. Pablo Picasso supposedly was never called one.

are-one-one-moment and is-one-every-day is a broad spectrum. are you having a bad day or is it endemic behavior. i think it’s how we navigate that spectrum that counts; it helps us avoid the pitfalls that take us beyond the 0 to 5 range. go take the test and come back.

Bob Sutton is a guru of the highest degree. stanford professor, organizational behavior professor, and a slew of bestsellers on the nyt list. please, check him out here. he also wrote the book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. it’s a good read and i’ll send you here if you’d like to see all the reviews. but as i said, i don’t really encounter a**holes that much anymore, so when i picked up the book, i saw it more as a survival guide for la. it’s practical and yet the advice should be common sense if there is such a thing.

of all the advice Sutton provides, the best and first is to simply get away… distance yourself lest you become one. the disease is contagious he says. it’s not always possible or practical, however, so he lends further advice. what causes people to become one, is it learned? maybe it’s genetic. who knows. prevention, i think, really is better than a cure.

but that’s just my opinion. and you know what those are like.


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