Do you need to be mean to succeed?


I sometimes ask myself this question and certainly I am not the only one as I lately found this answer given by a French author, called Olivier Marion, whom I don’t have any information about but whose analysis I find quite interesting as he has succeeded in stressing out the essence of a well intended kindness versus the vacuity of wickedness.




I like the fact that he however doesn’t shy away from recognizing the aggressiveness in all of us. Here is how he expresses his point of view on the French site




Do you need to be mean to succeed?
By Olivier Marion, Paris (culled and translated from
 No, you better have talent. And to be largely successful, on a very big scale, you even need the talent to inspire others, to give them impetus, inspiration, freedom, ideas – all of which is not far from being called kindness. Obviously, kindness attracts bad press. It is suspected of silliness or sentimentality – “He’s nice, a little too much maybe…” – while all virtues are willingly ascribed to wickedness. We imagine the nasty strategist, as a calculator, as a strong person. We see him as a killer in business, as a political animal with hard skin, and we repeat at will Gide’s sentence: “You do not make good literature with good feelings”. That is to say how, in all fields of Western success, wickedness is valued at the expense of kindness that provokes a little pity. We are forgetting the aristocratic value of kindness: everyone cannot afford to succeed by behaving well, by trying to regain the gesture of a gentleman more than that of a mere conqueror. To succeed, do not try to jump the queue but to better yourself. Wanting to crush others is to obey our impulse. To really succeed is to sublimate your repressed impulses. We should not confuse malice with sublimation of natural instinct. Aggressiveness is probably one of the decisive engines of our battles, our creativity, our success, but those who really succeed are not those who give in to it. Talent often comes from what we are able to do with our repressed aggressiveness: our ability to sublimate. The wicked will fail, often lost in his non-productive impulses. He consumes energy in wanting to harm instead of using it to invent the future. Convinced of the need to divide and rule, he sees power as capture. He fantasizes about increasing his power with what he takes from others. He will, often, succumb to time. He will eventually meet more wicked than himself, and even if it never happens, he would have lived all his life in this fear. He will not have consolidated his power with what he has been able to give to others. The inventor, the philosopher, the manager, the team leader, the charismatic person… They all increase their power by empowering others: to have power, is to empower others. It is delegating, initiating, inspiring. It is to prove yourself capable of this higher form of “kindness”, which does not exclude interest or sublimation of primitive aggressiveness. We should not be mean to succeed but assume the ambivalence that makes us human and do something about it.


For those of you who can read French, you will find the original article here.



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