Heartless, cold-blooded psychopaths get a bad rap. The movies would have you believe that being ruthless, narcissistic and kind of robot-y means you’re destined for a life of serial killing or, you know, a lucrative career in finance.
But there’s a reason that so many panicky studies go on about how many narcissists land up as CEOs, politicians and billionaire businessmen. The usual conclusion is that capitalism is nightmarish and that it if it takes a sociopath to succeed in it, the system must be broken.
The truth is maybe a little subtler: narcissists, those low on empathy and other asocial sorts succeed in business because they’re good at it. They possess exactly those human traits that pre-wire for leadership, success and general world domination.
I’m not suggesting you take inspiration from those who are legitimately mentally ill, but it couldn’t hurt to enhance these traits in yourself, especially when it comes to mastering your online news business.
You could call it cold and calculating, or you could call it being calm, rational and logical. Get carried away with anger or fear and you’re no longer functioning optimally. Psychopaths often seem a little emotionally “dead” to others, but learning how to regulate your emotions when necessary is an incredible skill. Emotions are a wonderful part of the human experience – but control them, rather than letting them control you.
Determination and Focus
A skill in every narcissist’s arsenal is the ability to shut out anything and everything that doesn’t relate directly to their goal. In excess, this looks like obsession or selfishness, but as an entrepreneurial journalist, you need to concentrate your efforts wisely. Genius is not necessarily an excess of talent, but it’s often talent well applied.
Psychologists more or less agree that being irrationally optimistic is better than seeing the world for what it is (see depressive realism). In other words, those people who tend to think they’re the shit actually end up happier with life. A little narcissism, a little ego and a little wishful thinking can have surprising results.
The world’s most famous psychopaths have convinced those around them that they’re gods among men. Use that same audacity and you’ll be inspired to push yourself further, recover from failure and see opportunities you might not have seen otherwise.
Psychopaths might not necessarily be more intelligent than everyone else, but they are more resourceful. They think all the way to the end. Like chess players, they plot out all possible moves and their back up plans way past the point at which others would shrug and call it “fate”. As an entrepreneur, you can use this trait to manage risk, strategize and position yourself carefully.
A true narcissist really doesn’t give a damn about what others think.
He is so independently minded that he only engages with the rest of the world insofar as it serves him and his goals. In small doses, having the balls to set yourself apart from others and play by your own rules can be a powerful trait for an innovator or entrepreneur. While a journalist should probably stay well on this side of the law, it pays to get into the habit of asking, “so what?” when you bump up against some social convention.
In business, and in life, I try to cultivate a “lovable psychopath” persona – all the best parts of being restrained, in control and convinced of the value of your master plan, but with none of the manipulative behavior and/or murder. If you find yourself hovering around the more timid, more pessimistic end of the spectrum, it might be a lot of fun to channel your inner narcissist occasionally.
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