The Benefits of Pissing People Off

240 Comments


“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard (source: uberzombie)

Right alongside the cash and credit cards, I keep a number of strange things in my wallet.

The largest is a folded-up page from the July 6, 2009 issue of Fortune magazine. In a profile, Scott Boras, widely regarded as the most powerful agent in professional baseball, describes a dinner with one of his mentors after a record-breaking contract:

“He said that if you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative. Keep your head on straight, don’t get emotional, take the heat, and just make sure your clients are smiling.”

Doing anything remotely interesting will bring criticism. Attempting to do anything large-scale and interesting will bring armies of detractors and saboteurs. This is fine – if you are willing to take the heat.

There are good reasons to be willing, even eager.

Colin Powell makes the case: pissing people off is both inevitable and necessary. This doesn’t mean that the goal is pissing people off. Pissing people off doesn’t mean you’re doing the right things, but doing the right things will almost inevitably piss people off.

Understand the difference.

Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.

Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable, if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset.

Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nicely” regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization. (full presentation here)

Don’t go through life with kid gloves on. The stakes are too high, and it is oftentimes more important to give people what they need, rather than what they want.

This includes ourselves. By facing the fire early and often, we ensure the confidence and breathing room later to do bigger and better things.

Or to just sit back in a hammock with the peace of mind that only comes with belief that you did your best.

Be criticized for doing small “safe” things, or be criticized for doing big things that you’re passionate about. That is the choice. The criticism will come either way, whether in the form of self-talk (the former) or ankle biters (the latter).

Let the critics criticize. It’s the builders who count.

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Get the brand-new Expanded and Updated 4-Hour Workweek, published 12/15, which includes more than 50 new case studies of luxury lifestyle design, business building, reducing hours 80%+, and world travel.

Posted on: November 25, 2009.

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240 comments on “The Benefits of Pissing People Off

  1. Dear Tim,

    I’ve been a reader of yours since I came across your TED speech and have enjoyed your ideas ever since.
    Recently, I’ve been thinking about my greatest weakness – the imprecise, yet paralyzing, fear of failure. A big part of this fear is the classic dilemma: “what will people think?”. It’s mostly absurd anxieties of which I am fully aware, but unfortunately, being aware of them doesn’t automatically cure this illness.
    I was wandering if you, or any of your great readers has any ideas for “tools” to get people started, to make them do the first step. I know that micro experiments are a great solution, but what I find difficult is even deciding to undergo them.
    I know that the “just do it” motto is the best answer, but I seem to get overinvolved in preparation.

    PS I think that my fear of failure/being judged is strongly linked with the idea of trying to please everyone.

    Like

  2. Thank you Tim for another stellar post! Other people’s opinions have quickly become the last thing that I consider when looking at a new opportunity. They are too busy thinking of reasons they can’t do it, not me. They could care less about my situation. Eagerly awaiting the new book bro. Been a “4 Hour Work Week” disciple for some time now and everyone I give the book to loves it. Happy travels!!

    Like

  3. So true. People are always wanting to project their insecurities and suffering onto others. I was puzzled whenever I saw a negative review of the 4HWW because the reviewers just highlighted their inability to implement the ideas in it.

    Like

  4. Just be careful with this one. An effective leader will inevitably piss people off but I’ve met too many folks who think that pissing people off is a sign that you are leading well. *Not* the same thing!

    Like

  5. “Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions.”

    If you’re clear on where the group is going, and are able to express it to the group and get them excited about it, they will not be angry when tough decisions need to be made. They will KNOW that everything is done with the sole focus on reaching the goal.

    This is the case when an organization is small and has an incredible amount of open communication. Groups should not grow larger unless this kind of communication can grow with it.

    Like

  6. Hey Tim,

    This sort of thing is useless unless you also define what sort of criticism you are prepared to accept or consider valid. The idea that 95% of your publicity being negative is not indicative of anything being a problem is silly. Sometimes, even often, 95% of people saying the same thing is a pretty strong indicator that they’re right.

    In the case of Boras, his situation is a little different, and his advice valid, because he acts as an agent for his players. So if they’re happy (“just make sure your clients are smiling”) that’s the more important metric, and he’s more likely to be doing his job. But many people who cite his advice are bloggers, writers, etc. who are in a completely different position.

    Like

  7. Thanks Tim! I’ve always been someone who tried to be kind to everyone and I do realize that, at times, people who are doing all the work (myself most of the time) will get very discouraged and pissed because no one else is picking up the slack…mainly because they aren’t feeling the need due to the kind words I share.

    I’ll sure make an attempt to piss more people off ;)

    Jason

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  8. When what we want to do is extraordinary, people tend to look down on what we do. Especially coworkers that are comfortable in their situations tend to see extraordinary actions from us to be a knock against their comforts and tend to push back negatively.
    I’ve found this especially true with personal friends that know that their current situation in life is not where they want to be.
    Keep your cool, mind your own business and carry on!

    Like

  9. Interesting article, although I would prefer more content.

    I recall an Oprah Episode where she was interviewing Tiger Woods. They both talked about how the hardest part of success is that you often have to leave your friends behind at each level of success. I thought about friends that I left behind over the years by pissing them off. I did not actually do anything to piss them off other than achieve my own dreams.

    For Example:
    -When they were bumming around jobless, I decided to go to University = Pissed off a group of friends
    – When my University friends were looking for jobs, I decided to start my own company = Pissed off friends
    – When others rent, I own

    Blah blah blah, the point is that yes, pleasing yourself will indeed make you happier than trying to please others. When you leave one group of your peers behind, you will find another that has more in common with you than the past.

    K

    Like

  10. Good post. It’s important to remember if you do things beyond the ordinary you will stand out from the crowd. And those are the ones who get shot at.

    The choice is not whether everyone will like you or not. The choice you make is who will like you. Make sure the ones who like you are the people who are important to you.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Like

  11. Well, I must be doing really well then considering how many people I tend to piss off ;-)

    Seriously, its great point. Most people, myself included, are governed by what others think and this limits their ability to “break free” from the herd mentality.

    The successes we usually see around us are often those who know they need to kill a few scared cows or challenge conventional wisdom to stand out and make an impact.

    It takes a thick skin….which you’ve clearly got Tim, but can result in extraordinary achievement.

    Do you have any strategies for ignoring the criticism, not questioning yourself and ‘sticking to the plan”?

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  12. Spot on, Tim. I going through a lot of this right now from friends and family that think I’m just “lazy” for not having a job and don’t seem to understand the idea of automated income.

    Hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

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  13. Perfect timing with this post. A message I needed to hear. I recently took a new job that requires me to bring organization, where there was none. It involves changing the way people work and getting divergent groups of people to work together. I work in higher ed… so change is not widely embraced.

    I have been spending way too much time making friends and in-roads, that I believe are necessary. But, now I’m itching to start changing things in a radical nature. I’ve been holding back… not wanting to risk my popularity by pushing things too hard. I call it the “golden child syndrome.” Whenever you start a new job at a new organization… everyone thinks your the great answer to their problems. However, if I can not facilitate change… I just become part of the status quo (the problem).

    Thanks for the wake up call!

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  14. Dear Tim:

    Love what you just said. It comes as a great reminder to keep doing and do not worry about the rest. People will be doing what people do. You are doing what you are supposed to do.

    You cannot control the outside. You are only in control of yourself. I guess it goes back to trying to satisfy everybody. It’s impossible. Therefore inevitably some people will not like what you are doing. So why bother about worrying?

    It is just important to stay on your path, believe in yourself and just know that what you are doing is what is the best for you. Then others will just fade to the background and you will be able to focus on any task at hand.

    Best,

    Tomas

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  15. I have checked in to your site everyday since the last post…………i just want in on the action once the new one is up; anyway, it paid off

    nice post; its a childish act to want to please everybody…………i had to snap out of it. so, just snap out of it period

    Like

  16. Well said!

    A sure way not to go far in life is worrying about what others are saying about you.

    However that does not mean that the opinions of those who do matter should be ignored.

    Like