Larry is my dad. In the above picture, his smile is as close to a smile as you’re going to see in a picture of him. My dad is a blue collar guy. He’s never worried much about building a career because he’s spent his life building houses. While he’s climbed more extension ladders than corporate ones, he has given me the best advice I’ve ever received about getting ahead in business: Don’t be an A**hole.
This advice has made my dad a popular guy. He doesn’t smile a lot, he isn’t outgoing, but he takes pride in being kind to people and people respond with kindness.
I’ve always watched in amazement at the way people always seem to know and like my dad when we’re out at a county fair or anywhere in his element. People call him by his name and seem happy to see him. He never read How to Win Friends and Influence People, but he embodies its principles but simply following his own “don’t be an A**hole” advice.
This sounds really simple, but think about how few kind people we come across on a daily basis. There aren’t many. It makes my dad’s “don’t be an A**hole” advice all the more meaningful because as he tells me, it costs nothing.
It costs nothing to speak to people you see and have a kind word.
It costs nothing to keep your word when you give it to someone.
It costs nothing to hold a door, to look people in the eye or to treat people the way you wish to be treated.
It costs nothing to not be an A**hole.
The interesting thing about this Don’t be an A**hole advice is that it has two benefits.
The first one is the way people begin to respond to people who are genuine and kind. There’s a kind of respect this behavior earns that can’t be bought in any other way.
The second is they way you begin to feel about yourself when you treat people with respect. When we’re kind to others, we begin to be kind to ourselves too. This feeling tends to fuel more kindness and this positive cycle continues.
Sadly, the converse of this is true as well.
I have had moments in my life when I didn’t live this golden advice. I’ve treated people poorly and forgotten that everyone has value. When I’ve behaved this way, I never find a positive light to see myself. Negativity breeds more negativity and this cycle continues too. It’s in those moments that dad’s advice really comes in handy. Don’t be an A**hole.
I write a lot about improving communication skills and personal branding because I really believe in it as a way to advance in business. As valuable as these skills are, they’re meaningless if we can’t treat people with kindness and follow my dad’s advice. Don’t be an A**hole.