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Can You Fix Yourself When You Realize You’re a Jerk?

The megalomaniacs are the only ones who can save themselves.

by
Dave Swindle

Bio

April 24, 2012 - 6:06 am
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Personality or temperament is just as biological as mental illness, though most of us think otherwise. Our basic temperaments are set by the time we reach kindergarten; studies show that those basic temperaments measured at age three persist and predict adult personality at age eighteen. From then onward as well, despite what many intuitively believe, our basic personality traits change little throughout adulthood and into old age. We may get wiser as we get older, but we do not become less introverted, or more open to experience, or less neurotic (to mention three basic personality traits).

– Nassir Ghaemi,  A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

This morning at Forbes business writer Todd Wilms reveals “Why the Megalomaniac in the Corner Office Isn’t Doing Your Company Any Favors”:

Do you work for that larger-than-life personality in the corner office?  Do they cause Copernicus and Galileo to turn in their graves by making themselves the center of the Universe?

If so, they are putting your company on a course for certain failure. Failure that has little to do with the product or service you provide and everything to do with culture.  Or more specifically, an inherent inability to evolve with the times and needs of the marketplace.

You really don’t need to be a “Greek fortuneteller”(what were they called?) to see the future.

One of the strange paradoxes of human life: the ones who are the most talented and hard-working and who rise to the top of the pecking order can often be really unhappy, destructive people. And while they might be very productive and create wondrous things for all to enjoy, they still generate psychic toxic waste and manage to make life miserable for everyone around them. Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals profiles several examples.

The other night April and I watched the recent Will Ferrell comedy-drama Everything Must Go. In a darker role for the Anchorman, Ferrell plays star salesman (and chronic alcoholic) Nick Halsey. Based on a short story by Raymond Carver, the film depicts a brutal one-two punch: in the same day Nick is fired from his job of 16 years he arrives home to find the locks changed, all his possessions littered onto the lawn, and his wife gone. Then the repo men arrive to take back his corporate car and he discovers the $45,000 in his bank account has been put on hold.

Soon the alcohol money runs out and the reality of who he is and the pain he’s inflicted can no longer be ignored. And the megalomaniac realizes he can change himself. And so he starts a yard sale — and in selling his old possessions he’s abandoning the broken pieces of his natural personality.

Our personality may be imprinted on us and it may be “natural” for us to be a certain way but since when is what’s “natural” a virtue?

Andrew Klavan got it right yesterday with his article “Screw the Earth,” identifying the most unnatural thing on the planet as the only thing of real value:

The Earth — for those of you who may have fallen behind on your reading — is a piece of rock trapped in a slow death spiral into a cauldron of exploding plasma which, for lack of a better word, we’ll call the sun. Because that’s its name. There is exactly one interesting or worthwhile thing about this hunk of doomed space debris, and that is:  it happens to maintain the conditions necessary for supporting life. (The odds against this would be ridiculously impossible, by the way, if there were no God — so impossible that scientists have been forced to invent all kinds of silly multi-universe scenarios solely for the purpose of convincing themselves that there is no God. But that’s their problem, and neither here nor there.)

So the earth supports life.  Whoopee. And there is exactly one interesting or worthwhile thing about life — only one — and that is the mind of man.

And Jeanette Pryor offers a fascinating look into that mind in her PJ Media article today: “Toxic Activism: Is Politics Your Drug of Choice?”

David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media. He writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, religion, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section and the PJ columnists. Contact him at DaveSwindlePJM @ Gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He has worked full-time as a writer, editor, blogger, and New Media troublemaker since 2009, at PJ Media since 2011. He graduated with a degree in English (creative writing emphasis) and political science from Ball State University in 2006. Previously he's also worked as a freelance writer for The Indianapolis Star and the film critic for WTHR.com. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their Siberian Husky puppy Maura.

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