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Vagabond Journey

Everybody Is An A-Hole

Accept it if you want to get ahead.

ROCHESTER, New York- My father is the classic example of a working man. He rose as high in his profession as he cares to go, he does something he seems to like, he seems to have a good time when on the job.

When I would be out with him as a kid and we’d see one of his co-workers he would bellow out to him in a loud voice, usually calling him my some nickname that he probably made up and often reciting some kind of inside joke. It was strange watching my father talk recreationally to someone who wasn’t in our family. His voice and demeanor was different to me. He never really hung out with friends and never brought any of his buddies over to the house, so this was really the only time that I would see this side of him.

I live a life that is rather different than his. He used to tell me when I was a kid that I should get and education so I don’t have to do what he does, but I don’t think what I ended up doing was what he had in mind.

I often say that there are two sides of any art: being able to do it well and having the interpersonal skills and drive to sell it. But there may be another as well: the ability to get along with people. Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’re going to win. Part of getting along with people is accepting them for who they are — deficiencies and all.

Now, I don’t drill my dad with barrages of questions like I do everybody else. I just kind of stand next to him outside of his house and he imparts old stories and little parcels of wisdom:

“You have to realize that everybody you work with is going to be an asshole at some point. Once you understand that you’re alright. The question is how much of an asshole they are and whether or not you want to deal with them.”

Filed under: Family, New York, Social Skills, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 89 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3515 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

6 comments… add one

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  • Trav June 2, 2019, 7:28 pm

    That’s true. I know I’m an a hole.

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  • Ryk Sink-Zinckh June 3, 2019, 2:21 am

    Hello Wade- new guy here. Just getting familiar with your style and thought processes. World travel I’m sure, has given you a much broader cloth with which to compare/contrast values and opinions. …what an asset. Your post about the commonality of being an ‘a-hole’ gives me pause. Typically I go about looking for exceptions to the rule when blanket statements are made about a somewhat nebulous subject…..not this time. My experience sort of confirms the premise. But my addition to your post is not that. It’s about the value of diversity- as a strength even though intolerable when wrecklessly applied. The delivery of our view is as important as content, maybe more. It is uncommon for one to value a message that has at its root…anger or undue sarcasm, even when the message is otherwise sound. So, at least for me, it’s not so much a clash of values (sometimes it is), rather the underlying emotions of the speaker. And we can feel it even if disguised by wit or brilliance (women have this wired in more than most men….). For those of us with a still-lingering conscience, we moderate most of this desire for verbal retribution through dialogue- MOST of the time, and beat the s**t out of ourselves when we fail. Unfortunately, in what appears a rather global decline of civility, self-interventions appear on the decline (from my experience)- rather infectious as a ‘group phenomenon’. Exacerbating the effects of moral/ethical turpitude includes those in positions of social influence acting out impulses of narcissism and other expressions of fear/inadequacy. These are multiplier effects on a community/nation. Return to greater civility ‘might’ occur when the costs to the a-hole outweigh the (psychological) benefits, and/or costs to the affected group meets a threshold of intolerability , and greater social sanctions are demanded…and applied. We’re not there yet. …but the greater good among us will/may always position our psyche with this aspiration…because not to acquiesces to human natures dark forces.

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    • Wade Shepard June 3, 2019, 5:14 pm

      Welcome aboard! I’m not exactly positive if I follow you all the way, but it’s my take that we’re thinking to much / getting to sensitive about not only what people are saying but implying through their delivery, as you put it. All too often, this gets misinterpreted and we are prone to placing people in little ideological boxes (sexist, racist, asshole, blah, blah, blah) when what was said — or implied — wasn’t even close to warranting this. US culture has become extremely sensitive about vocabulary and terminology and, in my opinion, has degenerated into petty power struggles: person A said something that person B can scold them about so person B gets to feel — and be shown as — morally superior to person A. This way of acting has become so ingrained as to become almost unquestionably right — which is always dangerous. The result are more social divisions, more people ignoring each other, and an even greater lack of diversity where people choose to interact openly in pre-established circles where they feel safe than risking saying something that, OH NO! offends somebody. Look around NYC. It’s one of the most statistically diverse places on the planet but you hardly ever see tribes blending together. Diversity means acceptance — even for those you view as assholes. Not sure if this was what you were getting at. If not, sorry about that!

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      • Ryk Sink-Zinckh June 4, 2019, 8:16 am

        I’m thinking about your comments Wade…considering another view from my own. I didn’t know NYC functioned this way…strange. I guess my priority with acquaintances or strangers defaults to civility/manners over openness of expression. Maybe this is what you’re referring to, maybe not. For me, it is a combination of both what feels right and what is the safest way to traverse different personalities…with different ideas/problems. We are in a time of great social change, which also infers greater risks of missteps to another’s ego. Is it worth the possible cost of harm in an effort to liberate our psyche’s to say what is on our minds, with folks that may be susceptible to bizarre ideas regarding defense of their ego/integrity/sense of self?? You’ve been around the world and back and I would guess that as a well-seasoned traveler you know well how to avoid/reduce potential dangers regarding differ. cultures and differ. people. What I’ve noticed is treating people better than they are used to being treated disarms them (IF they can be disarmed), while the converse adds weight to a negative outcome. That was basically my earlier point. Even though any of us can choose how often, and to whom we can be an a-hole (the potential is always there), treating people with respect appears…at least for me, to be most adaptive/successful. I will defend my integrity as best I can, absent real endangerment or threats to my life. Not an ideologue, more a rational pragmatist. My goal is to eventually travel, and your website is a great resource to learn as much as I can in prep. for what lies ahead. Thanks, and I read most of what you are writing.

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        • Wade Shepard June 4, 2019, 1:40 pm

          “Is it worth the possible cost of harm in an effort to liberate our psyche’s to say what is on our minds, with folks that may be susceptible to bizarre ideas regarding defense of their ego/integrity/sense of self??”

          I’d say yes. I believe this is the sharing part of social interactions. Although not many people are really interested in what anyone else but themselves have to say, so the times that come up to actually liberate the psyche in this manner are far and few between haha. I believe a lot of what we’re talking about can be boiled down to personal insecurities. If you are secure in yourself then something that someone says — something an asshole says — has way less of a chance of having much of an adverse impact on you. It’s also easier to not make something larger of something that offends you and limits the need for power struggles. People become / respond to assholes when they’re insecure — when they have something that they need to prove or something that they need to reset the balance of. Something that I left out of this post is that my father is exceptionally confident and carries himself as such. Shit just doesn’t bother him that would bug someone who didn’t have their self concept in such good order.

          Thanks for reading and commenting!

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        • Wade Shepard June 9, 2019, 12:22 pm

          Hey man, I read a blog post today that made me think of you. From how you worded your comments I imagine that you are somewhere around 22 years old and well-educated (correct me if I’m wrong). However, your complicated sentence structure and terminology does more to opaque the messages you’re trying to communicate than enhance them. I slip over into the academic side of things every once in a while (journal articles, books, etc) and see this a lot from people trying to look smart. However, some of our most renowned academics are the ones who could communicate their messages clearly with simple words and sentence structures. Any educated person can write in a needlessly complicated way but so few can effectively communicate what they are trying to say. Here’s the post: https://seths.blog/2019/06/overwriting/.

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