Why Being an Asshole Can Be a Valuable Life Skill

Henry Allport — dude really loved his dictionaries.

The Game Theory of Asshole-dom

  1. The more important something is, the higher the stakes.
  2. The higher the stakes, the more emotionally involved people are going to be with the outcome.
  3. The more emotionally involved people are with the outcome, the more difficult it will be to upset someone or tell them something they don’t want to hear.
  4. Therefore, the more important something is, the more valuable it is to be able to shit in somebody’s mouth if necessary.
The best way to do business…apparently.

How to Be an Ethical Asshole

  • All unethical people are unlikeable
  • All unlikeable people are assholes
  • A: TRUE, I’m bad at logic
  • B: TRUE, fuck you Manson! Only I decide what’s true!
  • C: NEITHER, this question violates my religious beliefs
  • D: FALSE, while all unethical people are assholes, not all assholes are unethical

1. Decide what’s more important than people’s feelings

2. Get good at feeling bad

3. Lean in to painful honesty


  1. Allport, G. W., & Odbert, H. S. (1936). Trait-names: A psycho-lexical study. Psychological Monographs, 47(1), i.
  2. Cattell, R. B., Eber, H. W., & Tatsuoka, M. M. (1970). Handbook for the 16 personality factor questionnaire. Champaign, IL: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing.
  3. Of course, there is some disagreement about the model, and some recent research suggests there might be six traits instead of five. But psychologists generally agree that The Big Five captures the human experience well.
  4. All of The Big Five appear to change somewhat over the lifespan over the course of decades. But in the short- to medium-term, personality traits are generally very stable.
    See: Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2003). Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: Set like plaster or persistent change? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(5), 1041.
    And: Cobb-Clark, D. A., & Schurer, S. (2012). The stability of big-five personality traits. Economics Letters, 115(1), 11–15.
  5. Heineck, G. (2011). Does it pay to be nice? Personality and earnings in the United Kingdom. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 64(5), 1020–1038.
  6. If you’re already an asshole but need help becoming more ethical, then that’s another post for another day.



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