Learning good lessons from bad people
While most people are good and generous, some are real, unrepentant, unfixable jerks.
Why it matters: A good hack for leadership and life: Study the jerks, the people who do the wrong things for the wrong reasons, and do the opposite. Then, purge them from your life.
- It’s easy to be inspired by acts of great heroism or actions. But, many of my defining memories often come from witnessing baffling or bad human behavior.
- In fact, at Axios, we made being routinely self-centered, petty or mean a fast fireable offense. In making this clear in words and actions, we have mostly eliminated the mischief-making and back-biting all of us witness at school, work and relationships.
Here are the truisms that guide our philosophy:
- Badness trickles down — fast. Any bad habit in a group or company can be traced to someone at the very top. You see this at schools, jobs and on sports teams.
- Bad habits are insanely contagious. One reason we prohibit people at Axios from talking crap about colleagues is witnessing how free others then feel to do the same.
- Behind most bad behavior lurks deep insecurity. Beware of those who surround themselves with people with bad characters or limited talent. This flows from insecurity.
- Don’t be delusional about our species. It is so tempting to try to see a path for someone who is routinely selfish or petty or untrustworthy to change. Most fully formed humans set in long patterns don’t. Run.
- We all need a DJ. We have a longtime colleague, Danielle Jones, who has a sixth sense for spotting bad eggs. And she isn’t shy about holding us accountable. Find people of high character and trust — and listen to them.
DJ is our talent whisperer and heart-and-soul of our company. These are the tells she looks for in spotting problematic people:
- Lack of humility
- Lack of authenticity
- Favoring personal ambition over the greater good
- Taking yourself too seriously
The big picture: Good bosses, company and friends are everywhere. Live life in perpetual pursuit of them. Purge the others.
🏁 Editor's note: This article appeared first in Axios Finish Line, a new newsletter in the Axios Daily Essentials package.