How to Be An Ass, Then Learn

Ass, by yihaaaaahhh on Flickr

Ass, by yihaaaaahhh on Flickr

This past week I’ve been complete ass to 2 different groups. I’ve single-handedly marginalized two different groups of people. One publicly, one privately.

You would have thought that I would have learned my lesson a long time ago on how to do be an ass. Apparently, I’m a slow learner. Apparently I spent too much time as a kid sniffing lead paint. I just didn’t learn.

Today I did.

How to be an ass (pick one or more)

  • Declare that things are going in the wrong direction when the group has already decided to go that way
  • Whine about a team’s action or lack-there-of
  • Declare that “this needs to be said”
  • Generally be a prick to those who’ve supported you
  • Don’t accept responsibility and move to be better in a positive way. Sit and complain about things
  • Don’t ever say you’re sorry

What I’ve learned (the hard way)

  • Congratulate the team publicly
  • Correct the individuals privately
  • Listen before you “correct”
  • Being disappointed is ok, but saying it tactfully requires time and planning
  • Never, ever talk when your emotions are raging. Sit and be quiet.

I’m not sure what I’ve learned is everything I need to but I’m documenting these lessons here so that both I and others can point back at them and say “I thought you learned this already, you ass.”

So, publicly, I want to say it again… I’m sorry.

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

5 Comments on "How to Be An Ass, Then Learn"

  1. If you only sniffed the paint then I don’t think you could have done too much damage. ;) The important thing is just to realize that the situation wasn’t handled ideally (which you’ve obviously taken note of), and do everything you can not to repeat the mistake. You’re doing a great job with CrisisWire and people are supporting you and the project whether or not they are contributing directly to it. Just keep your head up, stay positive, and I’m sure it will continue to grow and evolve.

  2. Just wanted to expand on my tweet ( a second ago. All leaders go through experiences where they doubt themselves. What differentiates a good leader from a bad leader is did he learn from the experience and improve or did he do nothing, thus enforcing bad leadership.

    You’ve got a huge push on a substantial project that you’re trying to get volunteers for. Of course it’s going to be hard to get just anyone to volunteer. If you look at it that way, you’re pretty blessed to have anyone even say that they’ll help you at all.

    Usually this kind of thing gets done by guys who work together or have built relationships over the years. What you’re doing is not terribly common but has great potential.

    I’m glad you had a moment of complete transparency. We get caught up in how to handle things the “right” way too often and forget that we’re human.

    Oh, I don’t know who you’ve got on the team but I’m a damn good CSS debugger (especially in IE6 :/) If you need help, hit me up. I don’t have a lot of time to commit to a project but I love tackling challenges and have a really good track record w/ IE6

  3. Peggy Gartin says:

    This too will pass, Nate. Thanks for being as open with your lessons learned as you were with the rest of it.

  4. Henry Halff says:

    Halff’s Law: People think better of you than you think they do, even if you take Halff’s Law into account.

    You might want to rethink the first sentence of your post.

    With gratitude for your contribution to Herocamp last week.


  5. tendrel says:

    SOOOO glad I am not the only one. just be thankful you’re a guy, try that action as a chick….and, you know…it ain’t pretty. I think you’ll be forgiven. everyone has their moments, EVERYONE, so if they can’t deal, then it isn’t your worry really.
    all my best, try not to beat yourself up too much. =)

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