People don’t like working with jerks.
Deep, right? You’ll probably want to stop reading this blog down right now and tweet that line to all your friends and family members.
Everyone knows that people don’t like working with jerks. That is not surprising. But here’s the thing, we often think that talent changes that rule.
We all know nobody likes working with jerks, but we think, maybe they’ll tolerate talented jerks. We know they might not necessarily like them, but they might let the jerk slide a little if we happen to also be very, very talented.
The importance of talent is grossly misunderstood and grossly overrated. We tend to put a premium on it because we think it matters most when it comes to successfully pursuing a dream. We think it is sexy. We think it is vital. We think it is everything.
I’ve learned something interesting about talent in the last 12 years. When I was fresh out of college I thought that as long as I had talent, as long as I could demonstrate some degree of talent, I would be fine in the workforce.
I was wrong.
And I realized this when I watched Rex get fired. (This is not his real name, but I’ve always wanted to know someone named Rex.) Rex was incredibly talented. He might have been the most talented person they had in that entire department. He had a scary level of innate talent. Unfortunately for Rex, the only thing that could match Rex’s talent in size and stature was his attitude.
Although he had great natural abilities, he never worked that hard and it showed in his work. He didn’t listen to the client, didn’t help coworkers and would occasionally teach himself origami during the middle of the workday. Honestly, one day I watched him spend the entire day on the Internet teaching himself origami. He ended up making a really beautiful swan, because he was so talented.
Then one day, Rex got let go.
They canceled his contract. Sent him home and that was the end of Rex.
The only one surprised at this turn of events was Rex. This caught him off guard. He was shocked. He was surprised that the most talented person in the department was on the chopping block. We weren’t in the middle of layoffs. The economy was fine and yet, here was Rex, getting walked out of the door.
The lesson I learned in that moment was short and kind of even rhymes:
“Wild talent and a bad attitude eventually always loses to mild talent and a good attitude.”
The key word in this sentence is “eventually.” Even as you read that, you were probably able to conjure up the image of a jerk you’ve known in your own life. A jerk that might have temporarily been successful. I say temporarily because jerks tend to get found out. No one wants to work with a jerk a second time. No one stands up for a jerk when they make a mistake. No one fights to keep Rex on the staff when he gets the axe.
I’m not saying you have to be sunshine happy all the day. I would never advocate that you fake your way through the day. But don’t think you can skate on by with your talent. The days of the pampered professional are coming to a close. To really grow your dream, you’ll need friends and fans you take care of with your good attitude.
Ryan Sweet played a critical role in me being able to become an author and get my dream job at Dave Ramsey. He was a graphic designer at AutoTrader.com. We were friends and eventually he encouraged me to get into blogging. He built my first blog for me, for free. He sat up all the backend programming, for free. He found me a host, for free. He and I didn’t know where that blog would lead, but I know Ryan would never had helped me if I were a jerk. Because people don’t do favors for jerks.
Don’t be a jerk.