A Personal Branding Guide for Assholes

Learn from the World Class Assholes: James Cameron and Steve Jobs

Are you the type of person who is classified as an “asshole”? Not sure? Well, if you were inclined to clicking this title, I’m sorry but yes, you probably are.

If you’ve ever had to be worried about being an asshole, perhaps because of growing number of enemies who hate you, or advice from your best friend that you should be nicer to people, rest assured. You can be yourself and become a successful asshole, as long as you fulfill some conditions.

James Cameron and Steve Jobs

James Cameron, one of Hollywood’s most innovative filmmakers known for the biggest box-office hits of all time and Steve Jobs, one of the most legendary businessmen who changed the world. Do you find any common ground between the two?

Yes, both of them are WORLD CLASS ASSHOLES. James Cameron is notorious for getting so enraged on set that the crew even took to wearing T-shirts that said “You can’t scare me, I work for James Cameron”; Steve Jobs was also a well-known jerk yelling at people for 30 minutes straight, cutting in front of his employees at lunchtime and pressuring people until they reached their breaking point.

So, it seems that you’re allowed to stay as an asshole, if you can be successful like Cameron and Jobs. Well, yes but no. I mean, being successful is one of the requirements to become an ‘acceptable’ and ‘understandable’ asshole, but it’s not the only condition required. For those who want to keep your jerkiness, and moreover brand your asshole ego as one of your iconic characteristics that differentiates you from others, we’ve compiled some traits that you need to have:

 

What You Need to Become an Acceptable Asshole

Great Achievements – accompanied with perfectionism and innovation

Why did The Abyss crew members agree to surface for lunch at 2am after being in the water ten hours a day? Why did Kate Winslet in Titanic take the risk of being drowned and follow Cameron’s lead under the grueling movie sets? Why did Apple employees tolerate the culture of fear and control around communication inside Apple while being hit by Jobs’ acid tongue every day?

Because they made great achievements. James Cameron is a writer, director and producer of The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar, and both Titanic and Avatar (the highest grossing film of all time) won the Golden Globe for Best Director and Best Picture and were nominated for a record number of awards. Steve Jobs was not only the CEO of Apple but the greatest CEO of his generation, and made a tremendous impact on the world. People appreciate their results.

There would be no one who’s willing to embrace your jerkiness, unless you can provide them with something valuable that ordinary kind non-assholes cannot provide. In other words, being an asshole costs. You need to be capable of providing valuable things as much as you can make up the negative impacts you caused due to your jerkiness. Cameron and Jobs could be accepted as world-class assholes, because they won world-class achievements.

‘Anybody can be a father or a husband. There are only five people in the world who can do what I do, and I’m going for that.’ – James Cameron

 

‘Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.’ -Steve Jobs

 

Some may whine that they could be accepted because they are geniuses. But they had something more than just being talented:

 

  1. Perfectionism

Cameron’s movies are amazingly rich in details, which makes audiences thrill to immerse themselves into the imaginative world he created. It’s attributed to Cameron’s perfectionism to a great extent. The 75 second scene showing the alien water tentacle sequence took more than 6 months to create. A special head rig fitted with a tiny camera that floated inches from an actor’s face was adopted to capture the change of facial expressions in minute details, the movements of facial muscles. Apparently, Avatar has nearly three thousand effects shots and Cameron apparently reviewed them as many as twenty times.

Jobs is also famous for his relentless pursuit of perfectionism. From Jobs’ point of view, every detail, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, mattered. From the shape of the icons on the iPhone to the type of materials used in Apple retail stores, Jobs viewed every single detail. It’s now quite popular that Jobs was even worried about the yellow gradient in the second O of Google and urgently asked to fix it.

‘I want you to know one thing—once we embark on this adventure and I start to make this movie, the only way you’ll be able to stop me is to kill me.’ – James Cameron

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  1. Innovation

Cameron, a well-known techno-brat, has been hailed as a pioneer of innovative special effects. Starting with 1989’s The Abyss, Cameron began developing and using sophisticated computer-generated visual effects (CGI), and his next film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, set a new benchmark for CGI in film. In Titanic, Cameron not only utilized sophisticated CGIs, but also build enormous sets in order to maximize the realism. And in Avatar, the highest grossing film ever at the box office, Cameron’s use of computer generated special effects hit a new high by cutting edge 3D motion capture technologies he invented.

In case of Steve Jobs, It’s no wonder that CNBC named him the No. 1 most innovative and transformative business leader of the past 25 years in 2014. When he returned to Apple after a 12-year absence, Apple was close to bankruptcy. “The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting; the cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” Jobs made this statement and launched one innovation after another after another, revolutionizing computers, entertainment, music, retail, mobile, telecommunications, and the whole way we live, as we all know very well.

 

‘Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it. By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.’ – Barak Obama

 

 

Having and Showing Your Passion

If you are an asshole without any passion, it’s almost hopeless to expect that you can be embraced by other people as who you are. And if your passion about certain thing makes you show your asshole side, it is important to show your passion which helps people understand and even support you despite your jerkiness.

 

One good way to effectively show your passion is leading from the front. Cameron does nearly every job on a movie himself – hold the camera, man the editing console, sketch the creatures, apply the makeup, which elite directors generally don’t do anymore. He not only yells through his megaphone, but actually leads people by being hands-on in almost every part of movie production, which represents his passion about it. His active lead must have made people feel how strong his passion is, and inspired people to join his journey in spite of many hardships.

 

Jobs also leaded from the front by not only standing in front of the public to make impressive keynote speeches but also being involved in every single process of decision-making inside Apple. It was required to get Jobs’ permission to put anything on an Apple device, no matter how essential or trivial it was. He was actually all about control, exercising censorship and authoritarianism to prevent any disclosure of negative information. While such jerkiness of him created a culture of fear around communication inside Apple, it must have contributed to gaining some people who respect Jobs’ passion and are willing to accept his jerkiness.

 

‘It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity! Or remorse or fear and it absolutely will not stop!… ever… until you are dead!’ – James Cameron

 

Emotional Stories

People like emotional assholes. Emotional stories make assholes understandable, relatable and even likable.

 

Cameron is known as a maniac deep sea diver. In line with making the most ambitious movies in the world, he spends his free time exploring the deep ocean in mini submarines. In 2012, he became the first person to make a solo journey to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean floor, in a mini-sub he designed with a team of engineers. In one interview, he provided so Cameron-esque reason of going on multiple deep sea expeditions. “I look for things that haven’t been done. I like finding that gap between everything that hasn’t been done and what I think can be done. Everything I’ve ever done has been based on that little gap: every expedition, every piece of robotics that we built, every camera system, the deep-ocean stuff – it all falls into that same pattern,” he says. His pursuit of something that has never been done, combined with his perfectionism and development of numerous innovative special effects in his movies, makes his obsessive asshole ego look like a pro.

 

I believe most of you have already heard about the life drama of Steve Jobs which is full of ups and downs, from getting sacked to becoming CEO of Apple. His rollercoaster-like life story provides people with an impression that his way of running business or treating his employees is not groundless, but rather credible based on his own philosophy built while getting over numerous challenges in his life. One more important thing is that he was a great storyteller standing in front of the public. Your emotional stories are valuable only when they are delivered to people. While it can be achieved by media interview or others’ testimonials, the most impactful way to do it is telling your story by yourself in the authentic and effective manner.

Steve Jobs was very good at it. He always launched new products through his keynote speeches where he explained the public how he had come up with the new innovation with his enthusiasm about his work. In addition, his famous 2005 commencement address to Stanford University connected emotionally with millions of souls around the world. Jobs merged his deeply personal take on the common themes of life, growth and death, which made the speech so inspiring and impressive.

 

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”– Steve Jobs at 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

 

Being an Artist or a Creator

Several researches have proven that there is a close relationship between perceived eccentricity and valuation of art. People tend to be more generous with assholes when they are artists, thinking that eccentricity represents creativity or different insights. That is, being an asshole can even act positively for artists or any other people who can provide a different point of view by creating new values.

 

Cameron is exactly this case. He is a screamer who shouted to Arnold Schwarzenegger “Do you want Paul Verhoeven to finish this motherfucker?” after the actor went AWOL from the set, and a guy who has had five wives (waitress, producer, director, actress, actress). However, such asshole-like eccentric aspects of him can also be perceived as a part of his ingenuity as a great filmmaker and artist.

 

Jobs was not an artist, but a creator who could forecast next needs of consumers and show them to people in an effective and proper way. We all know that Apple products transformed the mobile business, the internet economy and, in many ways, society as a whole. Why could such transformation happen? It was because Apple products satisfied next needs of consumers which had been created by Jobs, not because they satisfied existing needs of consumers. For example, at the time of the iPod launch, the technology was not new. There were plenty of MP3 players on the market, but none were taking off. Then Jobs started talking about the technology differently. Jobs said, MP3 technology was about “1,000 songs in your pocket”, making MP3 players no longer about playing songs on the go. So, Jobs was the person who can think differently and create new values, which made his jerkiness become somehow justifiable or understandable.

‘People don’t want to just buy personal computers anymore. They want to know what they can do with them, and we’re going to show people exactly that.’ – Steve Jobs

 

Consistency

I know some of you are worried about whether it is okay to constantly act like an asshole. You’re afraid of being left behind by people who have given up withstanding your jerkiness. However, every personal brand requires consistency, and so does a personal brand of an asshole. Both Cameron and Jobs are famous for being an asshole throughout their lives.

However, it doesn’t mean that you should be mean to people all the time. You should of course better treat people in a nice way except certain parts that you cannot control your jerkiness. For example, as one of the toughest taskmasters in Hollywood running notoriously grueling sets for movies, Cameron is highly obsessive about details of a film or special effects, which makes people hard to work with him. However, he tries to mitigate its impact by motivating and uniting his crew members behind the scene by saying something like “We’re doing extraordinary things that outsiders would not even understand.”

 

First Understand Yourself

As seen above, it is arguably possible to build a great personal brand even as an asshole. James Cameron and Steve Jobs are also the world class assholes. However, if there are some people who try to emulate them by just being rude or aggressive, I’d like to make clear that they’re missing the point.

First, you can never build a strong personal brand if it’s not authentic. Second, truth to be told, Cameron and Jobs are respectively a great filmmaker and a great businessman, but perhaps not great humans. Treating people harshly or creating lethal work environments brings risks way more than benefits. For example, Jobs lost out on impressive talent because of his nasty temper. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said “some of the most creative people in Apple who worked on the Macintosh” left the company and refused to ever again work for Jobs again due to his demanding and hyper-critical management style.

Cameron and Jobs could build high reputation and become a legend in each of their fields while maintaining their extreme jerkiness, mainly because their dream was extreme, their passion and efforts were extreme, and most of all, their achievements were also extreme. If you can withstand extreme amount of responsibility, burden and any other -physical and mental- expenses that you need to pay until you reach up to your dream, develop your asshole personal brand. Be another big world class asshole and change the world. As James Cameron said, “I’m King of the World!”. As Steve Jobs said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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