Sex & Money

Does it seem like life’s big­gest re­wards go to the big­gest pricks? They do! But lis­ten up: there’s a way to suc­ceed with grace, dig­nity, and your go­nads in­tact

Men's Health (Australia) - - Contents - BY ERIC SPITZNAGEL IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS BY SEAN MCCABE

No need to like th­ese a**holes; just cherry-pick their ways.

GENE SIM­MONS DOESN’T CARE IF YOU CALL him an ass­hole. In fact, he con­sid­ers it a com­pli­ment. “I don’t think ‘ass­hole’ is a bad word,” he says, with a smirk that rarely leaves his face. “It means you’re a leader. You’re out in the front of the line, mak­ing the big de­ci­sions. The fol­low­ers are be­hind you, and when they look up, all they see is an ass­hole. Be­cause that’s their only view. That’s not the life I want. I’d rather be the guy in front who sees no ass­holes.”

We’re back­stage with Sim­mons at a con­cert in Chicago a few hours be­fore he takes the stage. It’s him and his band, not his usual gig singing and breath­ing fire for Kiss, so he’s not in his fa­mil­iar de­mon makeup, cod­piece and plat­form boots. For tonight’s show, just a day after his 68th birth­day, he’s in street clothes – leather jacket, way-tootight jeans and sun­glasses that don’t come off in a dim dress­ing room. He’s in­vited us

here to talk about his favourite sub­ject. “I’m delu­sional in my sense of self,” Sim­mons says, paus­ing to check him­self out in the mir­ror. “I’m aware that I’m not the best­look­ing guy in the world. But I’m also aware that I could walk into any room in the en­tire world and walk out with any­body’s girl. That’s just a fact.”

Sim­mons wrote a book, On Power: My Jour­ney Through the Cor­ri­dors of Power and How

You Can Get More Power, which in­cludes such sec­tion ti­tles as “Get Bet­ter Friends”, “Speak English and Speak It Well”, and “If You Want It Done Right, Do It Your­self”. It’s a guide to at­tain­ing power by be­hav­ing like Gene Sim­mons, i.e., an un­re­pen­tant prick. The book’s cover fea­tures a money bag, which Sim­mons tells us, with­out a hint of sar­casm, is some­thing he’s trade­marked. “I’ve owned the trade­mark to the money bag sym­bol for 28 years,” he in­sists. “It’s not my fault other peo­ple were too stupid not to think of it first.”

Love him or hate him, the only ra­tio­nal re­sponse to al­most ev­ery­thing that comes out of Sim­mons’ mouth is “What a fuck­ing ass­hole!” He has an essence to him that the Ger­mans call Backpfeifen­gesicht, a word roughly trans­lated as “a face in need of a good punch”. But he’s also a para­dox. On one hand, he’s en­vi­ably suc­cess­ful. He’s rich – worth an es­ti­mated $300 mil­lion – and reg­u­larly sells out con­cert venues full of ador­ing fans. He’s had sex with thou­sands of women and still ended up with a loyal and de­voted wife, the ac­tress and model Shan­non Tweed. By every tan­gi­ble mea­sure of suc­cess, Sim­mons has done pretty well for him­self. But he’s ap­par­ently done it all while be­ing ob­nox­ious as hell. This is a guy who >

kept Po­laroids of all 4,800 women he’s slept with (his es­ti­mate) and has no com­punc­tion at all about sell­ing mer­chan­dise, with his name on ev­ery­thing from waf­fle mak­ers and door­mats to con­doms and cas­kets. He’s said to have com­posed songs about his pe­nis, pub­licly mocked any­one who strug­gles with drug or al­co­hol ad­dic­tion as “weak”, and de­lights in show­ing us how he’s trained Siri to ad­dress him as “My Lord and Redeemer”. He smiles at Siri’s as­sur­ances. “See?” he says. “She gets it.”

Sim­mons is an ex­cep­tional ass­hole in a world where ass­holes are hardly ex­cep­tions. They’re ev­ery­where, and they seem to be hav­ing all the fun. Here’s a sen­tence you rarely hear: “Wow, that S.O.B. sure did end up alone, unloved and fi­nan­cially des­ti­tute.” What is it with the big­gest pricks get­ting the big­gest re­wards and be­ing for­given in the end?

Sure, there are a few re­cent ex­am­ples of scum­bags get­ting their come­up­pance. Travis Kalan­ick took a forced “leave of ab­sence” as the CEO of Uber, the multi­bil­lion-dol­lar com­pany he co­founded, after too many in­ci­dences of ram­pant ass­holery. And pharma bro Martin Shkreli, who raised the price of Dara­prim – a drug used by AIDS and can­cer pa­tients – by 5,000 per cent, was con­victed of se­cu­ri­ties fraud. But for every dick­weed who gets what he de­serves, there are hun­dreds, maybe thou­sands, who thrive in spite of – and maybe even be­cause of – their be­hav­iour. You prob­a­bly know at least one ass­hole who has it all, de­spite some truly egre­gious be­hav­iour.

So what, if any­thing, can we learn from th­ese wankers? We want what they have – the money, the women, the jet­set­ting lifestyle, the ful­fill­ing ca­reer – but with­out re­sort­ing to the dick­ish power moves.

The prob­lem with try­ing to fol­low in the foot­steps of ass­holes is that it’s too easy to fo­cus on their bad be­hav­iour, like the ly­ing and the bul­ly­ing and the sadis­tic abuse they gid­dily in­flict, and miss what they’re ac­tu­ally do­ing right. “Ass­holes don’t suc­ceed be­cause they’re ass­holes,” says Dr Aaron James, a pro­fes­sor of phi­los­o­phy and the au­thor of Ass­holes: A The­ory. “The ass­hole ten­den­cies make it eas­ier for them to ac­cept some ba­sic strate­gies for get­ting ahead that nice guys might for­get.”

A lot of con­duct that may look like ass­holery isn’t, James says. And the the­ory isn’t that you should sim­ply “play nice”. You have to as­sess what’s ap­pro­pri­ate on a caseby-case ba­sis and some­times make un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sions. What makes the dif­fer­ence is re­main­ing aware of the con­se­quences. Ass­holes aren’t so con­sci­en­tious, James says. The mo­ment you just say “Screw it, ev­ery­one else is look­ing out for num­ber one,” is when you’re in dan­ger. Or, put another way, you can pri­ori­tise your­self and be con­tent with win­ning, but you don’t have to de­stroy the com­pe­ti­tion too. Here’s how ass­holes do it.

1. Be Over­con­fi­dent Even If You’re Clue­less

What do Gene Sim­mons and Muham­mad Ali have in com­mon? They both con­sid­ered them­selves ex­tra­or­di­nary long be­fore any­one else did. “I am the great­est,” Ali said. “I said that even be­fore I knew I was.”

Why It Works Dr David Dun­ning, a so­cial psy­chol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan, helped come up with a the­ory to ex­plain this re­al­ity dis­con­nect. The Dun­ning-kruger Ef­fect, as it’s called, is a cog­ni­tive bias where in­com­pe­tent peo­ple don’t recog­nise their own in­com­pe­tence, says Dun­ning. Lack­ing the skills or tal­ent for a task but tak­ing it on any­way can be a bad idea, like if you’re pi­lot­ing a plane or lead­ing the free world. But when the risks are lower, self­con­fi­dence can pay off.

“Michael Jor­dan, long be­fore he was a su­per­star, was asked what he thinks about be­fore he takes a shot,” James says. “Jor­dan replied that he al­ways thinks he’s go­ing to make it. He only made it half the time, but he never thought about that in the mo­ment of shoot­ing.” The facts didn’t mat­ter to Jor­dan un­til his abil­ity caught up to what his head was telling him.

Make It Work for You You don’t have to be as tal­ented as Jor­dan or as ar­ro­gant as Sim­mons to ben­e­fit from some du­bi­ous self­be­lief. “The true ass­hole will deny, deny, deny any ev­i­dence against him, per­haps con­vinc­ing him­self that oth­ers are be­ing un­fair to him,” James says.

At the same time, you don’t have to stoop to that level of self-de­cep­tion. There is no fake news when it comes to your po­ten­tial, only in ac­cept­ing the out­come of a best foot for­ward. “It’s not about deny­ing the ev­i­dence,” says James. “It’s just not car­ing about it. Any ev­i­dence, good or bad, has lim­ited rel­e­vance un­til you try.”

2. Be Im­mune to Crit­i­cism

Ass­holes are strangely un­fazed when con­fronted with their own ass­holery. Re­mem­ber that time when Kanye West pub­licly ad­mit­ted, “I’ve read the com­plaints about my em­bar­rass­ingly nar­cis­sis­tic be­hav­iour, and you raise some valid points”? Of course you don’t. Be­cause it never hap­pened.

Why It Works It’s not just that they’re ig­nor­ing the crit­ics; ass­holes might hon­estly not re­alise they’re be­ing crit­i­cised at all. In a 2014 ex­per­i­ment with 338 MBA stu­dents at Columbia Uni­ver­sity, peo­ple took part in fierce ne­go­ti­a­tions and were later asked to as­sess how they thought oth­ers in the group per­ceived them. Sixty-four per cent of those who had be­haved like ass­holes – pushy, loud, ag­gres­sive – be­lieved their fel­low group mem­bers prob­a­bly thought they acted ap­pro­pri­ately or even less as­sertively than they should have acted.

Make It Work for You Bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Mark Cuban has re­ceived his fair share of crit­i­cism – some mean-spir­ited, some le­git – and he doesn’t uni­ver­sally ig­nore all of it. Nor does he give his haters his to­tal time and at­ten­tion. In­stead, he trusts his in­stincts with­out for­get­ting to “check my hole cards”, he says. In poker, the hole cards are dealt face­down, which could make or break your hand. “You never look at your hole cards just once,” Cuban says. “It’s smart to al­ways check to make sure you are right.” That’s how Cuban says he re­sponds to crit­i­cism. He doesn’t ig­nore it, and he doesn’t ac­knowl­edge it di­rectly. But it might be a rea­son to check his hole cards one more time.>

“I am the great­est,” Ali said. “I said that be­fore I knew I was”

3. Be Your Big­gest Fan

While ac­cept­ing his Best Ac­tor Os­car in 2014, Matthew Mcconaughey re­vealed the iden­tity of his child­hood hero. “It’s me in 10 years,” he said, with a big, shit-eat­ing grin. Across the globe, in dozens of lan­guages, mil­lions of view­ers mut­tered, “What an ass­hole”.

Why It Works Mcconaughey isn’t the first nar­cis­sist in­spired by his own re­flec­tion. In a 2015 study from the Uni­ver­sity of Am­s­ter­dam, re­searchers con­cluded that pow­er­ful fig­ures are more in­spired by their own tales of glory than by the ac­com­plish­ments of oth­ers. “They tend to in­flate their own im­por­tance, and that just re­in­forces their feel­ings of self-worth,” says so­cial psy­chol­o­gist Dr Ger­ben van Kleef, the lead re­searcher.

Make It Work for You If you stuck around for the rest of Mcconaughey’s speech, it started to make sense. His hero isn’t re­ally him­self, he said, it’s his vi­sion of him­self – his ideal of who he could be­come in 10 years. Cuban has a sim­i­lar def­i­ni­tion. “I don’t get in­spired by my­self,” he says. “I get in­spired by my com­pet­i­tive spirit.” It still sounds smug, but it also makes sense, at least to psy­chol­o­gist Dr Erika Kao. “Mcconaughey looks to a fu­ture self to in­spire per­sonal growth. That can be very healthy,” she says. “How­ever, many pow­er­ful, high-achiev­ing peo­ple find in­spi­ra­tion in them­selves and get wrapped up in the pur­suit of per­fec­tion. It’s easy to put down, ne­glect and ex­ploit oth­ers for per­sonal gain. Re­mem­ber that mod­er­a­tion is key,” she says.

4. Be the Squeaky Wheel

(Who Knows When to Shut Up) If an ass­hole is up­set, you’re def­i­nitely go­ing to hear about it. It’s hard not to cringe when you see an ass­hole scold­ing a waiter. Does the guy re­ally need to be so un­re­lent­ingly rude about ev­ery­thing?

Why It Works Dur­ing Steve Jobs’s reign at Ap­ple, a chip sup­plier said it couldn’t fin­ish an or­der on the timetable promised, so Jobs burst into a meet­ing with its ex­ec­u­tives and called them “fuck­ing dick­less ass­holes”. Not ex­actly con­struc­tive crit­i­cism, but it did the trick. The or­der was de­liv­ered on time. The strat­egy also works out­side of Sil­i­con Val­ley. Many com­pa­nies have a “squeaky-wheel sys­tem” of cus­tomer ser­vice, con­ced­ing to the loud­est com­plain­ers just to make them go away. Also, com­plain­ing can be good for you: re­search shows that if you drop enough f-bombs while com­plain­ing, it can in­crease your tol­er­ance for pain.

Make It Work for You The rea­son a squeaky wheel gets the grease is be­cause the wheel used to be quiet and now it’s not. A con­stantly squeaky wheel is eas­ily ig­nored. Stan­ford pro­fes­sor Dr Robert Sut­ton, au­thor of The Ass­hole Sur­vival Guide, notes that great sports coaches lose their tem­per only when they need to. “If they’re al­ways scream­ing, even­tu­ally their play­ers will think, ‘Well, it’s not me, it’s him, he’s just an ass­hole.’ But when a typ­i­cally calm and col­lected coach loses it, ev­ery­body pays at­ten­tion.” Also, fake anger is eas­ily de­tectable, re­search shows. “We’re hard­wired to recog­nise fake emo­tional dis­plays, ren­der­ing such dis­plays less ef­fec­tive,” says Dr Fadel Matta, a pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia who has stud­ied why jerks are (or aren’t) ef­fec­tive.

5. Eat and Ex­er­cise Like You’re Su­pe­rior

It’s not that eat­ing right and ex­er­cis­ing makes you an in­suf­fer­able jerk. (We hope not, any­way, be­cause then we’d all be ass­holes at this mag­a­zine!) It’s that some guys are so

ar­ro­gant and self-ab­sorbed that they can’t ac­cept any­thing less than phys­i­cal per­fec­tion. “Nar­cis­sism is pos­i­tively re­lated to self­es­teem,” says psy­chol­o­gist Dr Erin Hill. Her re­search re­veals that ass­holes tend to be fit­ter and ex­pe­ri­ence fewer men­tal health prob­lems, in­clud­ing anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

Why It Works There’s some­thing about healthy eat­ing that jus­ti­fies an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour. In a 2012 study re­searchers con­cluded that ex­po­sure to or­ganic foods “can lead to harsher moral judg­ments”. If par­tic­i­pants viewed or­ganic ap­ples in­stead of, say, ice cream or mus­tard (their ex­am­ples), they were sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to vol­un­teer to help a needy stranger. The study au­thors think that or­ganic foods may make you feel as though you’ve al­ready done your good deed and are free to act un­eth­i­cally. Our take: maybe be­cause you’re so hun­gry, you’re like, “Screw that home­less guy. Can I get some carbs be­fore I punch a baby?”

Make It Work for You The same nar­cis­sism that in­spires ass­holes to work out, iron­i­cally, can be why they of­ten sab­o­tage them­selves with risky be­hav­iours like drink­ing, drug use and gam­bling. The trick is to find a happy medium – what Hill calls the “right” level of nar­cis­sism – be­tween feel­ing like a god and re­mem­ber­ing you’re mor­tal.

6. There’s No “I” in “Ass­hole”

Ass­holes are self­ish. But some­times they con­vince fol­low­ers they’re act­ing like ass­holes to serve the greater good. It’s why some CEOS and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers get away with be­ing such colos­sal dicks. As Re­pub­li­can congressman Dun­can Hunter said about Trump, “He’s an ass­hole, but he’s our ass­hole”.

Why It Works Peo­ple are sur­pris­ingly for­giv­ing of bad be­hav­iour if they think it’ll ben­e­fit them. In a Uni­ver­sity of Am­s­ter­dam study, peo­ple were unim­pressed with an ass­hole who stole cof­fee for him­self. If, how­ever, he swiped a cup for another guy, he was a hero and was rated as more pow­er­ful.

Make It Work for You True ass­holes are rarely as self­less as they claim to be and sooner or later their fol­low­ers fig­ure that out. When you prom­ise to put oth­ers be­fore your­self and then fol­low through, it can have life-ex­tend­ing ben­e­fits, like lower blood pres­sure and re­duced risk of de­pres­sion. But don’t be a pushover. The per­fect bal­ance is some­where be­tween ass­hole and saint. As a 2017 study re­vealed, be­ing too gen­er­ous with­out tak­ing care of your own needs leads to burnout and poor health. “The goal is to find op­por­tu­ni­ties that al­low you to be good to your­self and to oth­ers,” says psy­chol­o­gist Dr Jen­nifer Crocker. “A non-zero-sum.”

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