Being Loathsome is a Bad Career Move

I’m worried about a recent Forbes article that encourages people to be assholes as a way to further their careers.

J. Maureen Henderson’s article, Why It’s Better For Your Career To Be Loathed Than To Be Liked thinks that Erika Napoletano’s obscenity-filled presentations and slides of Sarah Palin copulating with a polar bear are to be admired and cheered.

In the article, Napoletano says:

I’m not concerned with being likeable as a brand or person. I’m concerned with not having to put on a meat suit every day when I stand in front of the world around me. Being honest and building the next better version of you? That’s what creates memorable people, brands and experiences. I don’t give a s*** if I’m likeable. I care the most about whether the people who allow me to do what it is I love every day respect me for who I am and know that I respect them the same way.

Angry Screaming Guy

If this is how you approach your business relationships, is it any wonder people don’t like you?

I hate, HATE, HATE! it when people equate the phrase “being honest” with “being an asshole.” As if being intentionally offensive is honest and noble, and people who are nice are less of a person.

Shock jocks and sullen teenagers do it, but it gets tiresome after a while, and at the end of the day, no one likes either of them.

These are the same people who say “I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I just say it like it is.”

You know who else speaks their mind and says it like it is?


They don’t have the maturity and tact to think twice about what they’re going to say. How bad does a person have to be when they have the same lack of maturity and tact as a three-year-old? You would think that after 30+ years, they would have figured that out by now.

Whatever happened to being nice and pleasant? Being respectful and kind? I knew a man who ran an entire department, whose daily mantra, both to himself and the people who worked for him, was “be nice.”

It was especially unsettling for the people who worked for him, since many of them were retired military officers, including a colonel who had commanded a tank brigade. Their collective job was to deal with large-scale disasters and emergencies.

But “Be nice” won the day. This guy had the respect and admiration of everyone who worked for him and with him. And they were still able to get the job done and keep people safe.

Being Nice Doesn’t Mean Being a Pushover

I know some people who worry that being nice means you have to let people walk all over you, or that people are going to take advantage of you.

That’s not what it means.

Being nice means you don’t belittle someone or try to hurt them. You don’t screw someone out of a business relationship. It means you don’t have a deliberate “screw you” attitude when dealing with people you disagree with.

Being nice means you treat people with kindness and respect. It means you stand firm on your convictions and you speak up — loudly, if necessary — when the situation calls for it. It means you stand up against bullies, and speak for people who don’t have a voice. Being nice doesn’t mean being a wimp, it means being strong, but respectful.

I have never known anyone to be fired or lose a client because they were nice.

“We had to let him go. He did good work, but he was always polite and helpful, and had a kind word for everyone. I hated him.”

There are plenty of people who get fired for being unlikable. For being rude, irksome, boorish, crude, inflammatory, and loathsome. No one was sad to see them go, and some people even got a going away party held in their honor.

After they were gone. And they weren’t invited.

Either Way, Bring Your A-Game

Henderson’s article says, if you’re going to be an asshole — I’m paraphrasing here — you’d better bring your A-game. You can’t just be offensive and be bad at your job, because then you’re just offensive, and you’ll be fired.

Napoletano believes that it’s okay to be loathsome as long as the clients love what you’re doing.

Which is true. But it’s also true that you still have to bring your A-game if you’re nice.

People don’t keep you around because you’re nice if you’re not providing a benefit. They want results. They want success. They want a positive ROI. And it doesn’t matter if you bake cookies for the office every Friday, if you’re not producing, you’ll be let go.

I prefer being the nice guy. I like helping people. I want to see, and help, people accomplish their goals and succeed in their endeavors. The whole reason Kyle Lacy and I wrote Branding Yourself was to help people, because there were a lot of people out of work, under employed, or in a job they hated. We wanted to help them find their way out of that.

Bottom line, your personal brand is yours to define, any way you want. You can be kind and helpful and nice to people, and have people who love to work with you and spend time with you, or you can be pompous, outrageous, and loathsome.

You can be likable and have people who want to work with you, or be loathsome and say you don’t care if you’re liked or not (which is good, because you’re probably not).

You can be successful with either approach, but one is going to bring you — and everyone else around you — more happiness.

Photo credit: B_Heyer (Flickr)

24 Quotes to Inspire Any Marketer, Plus One of Mine

Have you ever had your name mentioned in a sentence with someone you admire? Like you’re being compared to them, or included with them? And not, “Is Erik Deckers older than Jason Falls?”

It happens occasionally for me, where someone includes me in a list of people I’ve only read about, and who wouldn’t know me from Adam. Every time it does, I want to say, “Wait, I think you made a mistake.” It’s terribly exciting and a real honor. It’s also something I struggle to accept.

People from Indiana are taught to be humble, and to not brag. (We’re America’s Canada.) We don’t take compliments very well, because we’re supposed to be humble and not appear boastful.

So when someone includes my name or mentions something I’ve done/said in a list of people I’ve looked up to, quoted, and read regularly, part of my brain ducks its head, says “aw, shucks,” and kicks at the ground. And another part squeals like a 12-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber.

It happened yesterday after someone pointed me to a slide deck of “25 Quotes to Inspire Any Marketer” from It included quotes from Dan & Chip Heath (Made to Stick), Seth Godin (Purple Cow, Tribes, and Linchpin), John Jantsch (Duct Tape Marketing), David Meerman Scott (Real-Time Marketing & PR), and David freaking Ogilvy.

And me.

The line is from Branding Yourself, a book that Kyle Lacy and I wrote in 2010, and finished a second edition in 2012. I can’t remember who we learned it from (we cited him in the book), but it was used to illustrate the idea that, just like people have emotional reactions to their most-loved and most-hated brands, people have the same reaction to us.

I thought, “this must be a mistake. Or it’s one of those ‘Daily’ pages where 87 different people get included and tweeted.” But then I looked and saw that it was neither of those things. It really was something I said, and it was good enough to be included in a list with the Johnson Brothers, Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, and David freaking Ogilvy.

People think it’s odd that the personal branding guy has difficulty in accepting compliments or stating simple facts like, “I wrote a book,” especially when he wrote a book that told people “get over yourself.” But I do. I get red in the face when I get complimented. I still don’t like telling people, “I wrote a couple books,” because it seems like bragging. And I still feel like a fake when someone asks me to sign their book.

I have to fight that urge to not say anything about what I’ve done and, you know, actually do the things I tell other people to do.

So, here it goes:

“I had a quote about marketing included in a slide deck and blog post that included a lot of really smart people.”

You have no idea how hard that just was.

Erik Deckers to Speak at Revenue North Indy on March 21st, Free Passes Available

I’ll be speaking at the Revenue North Indianapolis conference on March 21, 2013 at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel. It starts at 8:00 am and runs until 5:00 pm, and they’re expecting close to 1000 people.

Erik Deckers speaking in public

I might even wear this shirt when I speak.

Passes are normally $99 for individuals and $299 for companies sending up to 5 people. But if you use my special promo code, A28LG7, you can get the individual pass for FREE.

You can see the full conference schedule here. Some of the speakers will include Doug Karr speaking about the Dangers of SEO; Kyle Lacy’s dad Dan speaking on Transforming Your Business; networking specialist Jamar Cobb-Denard will tell you to Stop Wasting Time Networking; my mentor Lorraine Ball of Roundpeg will tell you Why People Hate Your Website; and, I’m speaking about your 10 Professional Branding Secrets.

There are nearly 100 breakout sessions throughout the day, so you’re going to get your head crammed with a lot of great information.

The Tortoise and The Hare on Writing a Book

There are two ways to write a book — at least, two effective ways. I’ve written nearly five books with one method; I’ve wanted to write a book with the other. Which kind of writer, books or otherwise, are you?

The Tortoise

This is the ideal writer. He or she writes every single day. You don’t have to churn out a lot of material, you have to churn out material consistently. Write 600 words every day — that’s about 1 word processing page — and at the end of six months, 180 days, you’ll have a book.*

(* Nerdy tech specs: This is based on the ratio of 1 word processing page equalling 1.5 trade paperback pages, like Branding Yourself or No Bullshit Social Media. This will be slightly different/more for regular paperbacks, and I couldn’t even tell you what it equals for the big computer Dummies-style books.)

Of course, most biz-tech book publishers are slave driversinsistent about their schedule, and they give you four months to get your book done. So you’d actually need to jump up your output to 2 pages per day, giving yourself weekends off.

Still, if you can write 1 page per 60 – 90 minutes — again, slow and steady — you’ll be doing okay. You just can’t slack off or skip a day, because you’ll need to double-up on the next day.

The Hare

This is how I write books. It’s how I studied in college. It’s how I face a lot of projects that I have to do. (Unless you’re a client. Then I work on your stuff all the time, and think about it, and you, constantly.)

The Hare waits until a day or two before the deadline, and races through all the pages needed to meet the deadline.

When Kyle Lacy and I wrote Branding Yourself, I could generally do 1 chapter, about 10 – 12 pages, in 4 hours. Of course, that meant a lot of late nights, fast typing, and serious editing before it was finished. I got smarter when I wrote No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls: I took 4 days to write a single chapter, not because it was harder, but because I didn’t want to give myself such short deadlines and long hours.

You Need to be a Tortoise

I cannot stridently stress enough how important it is that you write like a tortoise, not a hare. I like to call the hare’s approach cram writing.

Cram writing is not for the novice writer, or even the person who has been writing for a couple years. Cram writing should only be done by someone who has been writing for a long, long time, and even then, you’d better be prepared for extensive editing and rewriting. There’s no one-and-done in cram writing. Anytime I’ve done it, I’ve had to edit everything twice before turning it in, and even then, my editors still had comments and questions.

Compare that to famed humor novelist, Christopher Moore, who is lucky if he finishes 2 pages in a single day’s writing. That’s 1200 words in about 5 – 6 hours, and it’s his job. He’s a trained professional with more than a few best-selling books to his name, and he can barely finish 2 pages in one day.

On the other hand, he rarely, if ever, has to edit his work.

Think of it. No rewrites, no edits, no typos, no mistakes, no snarky comments from editors. Nothing. Write it once, wait for the galley proofs, and you’re golden.

I try to avoid cram writing whenever possible, and I do recognize the difference in my writing when I give myself a few days to meet a deadline, rather than racing to beat it. I’ve managed to give myself extra time for the last couple of efforts, and have appreciated the difference.

If you’re thinking about writing a book, or an extra-long piece for publication, unless you are a seriously-trained professional who knows his or her limits and capabilities, I do not recommend you try cram writing.

Plan out your schedule, work at a comfortable rate, and pace yourself to be productive over the long haul. If you have to rush to get everything done, look at your time management and see if you can figure out where you’re falling down.