The Good Person’s Guide to Kicking Ass

How empathic people can achieve power and influence

There’s a reason that we see so many corrupt people in positions of power and authority. It’s not because they’re particularly competent. They’re not there because they do a good job. The reason they are in those positions is that they didn’t give up.

What’s particularly amazing is that those corrupt or unethical people in positions of power and leadership didn’t give up in spite of enormous opposition. One of the advantages of having a personality structure that lies on the narcissistic or psychopathic spectrum is that you can’t receive negative feedback. To a pathological personality, negative feedback is either ignored or attacked.

You might be surprised that that I consider being unable to receive negative feedback to be an advantage. It’s an advantage because the common factor among all people who succeed is persistence; raw, unbridled persistence. I believe that the only thing that stands between you and your dream life is persistence. All success is thwarted only by giving up.

As the author explains in Confessions of a Psychopath, this inability to receive and integrate negative feedback, to grow and change, is also a massive weakness for these kind of personalities. The lives of these people tend to eventually collapse due to lack of competence and community support.

The world is full of deeply empathic people, people who are highly skilled and competent, people who are ultra-conscientious. All too often, these people—the very people who should be in positions of leadership, influence, and power—are hidden away. These people are often amazingly good at receiving and integrating negative feedback, of learning and growing, and of adapting. If you are one of these people, please hear our cry: WE NEED YOU NOW!

The problem is that empaths are so easily discouraged. We receive a setback or some kind of negative feedback, we interpret that to mean that we’re not worthy of success, and we just stop. All we had to do was keep moving forward.

I want to see more and more empaths thrive, succeed, and occupy positions of power and influence. Here are some things you can do to kick ass as an empath:

Set and review goals

As I write this article, I have a list 84 medium and long-term goals in a spreadsheet. I review some or all of those goals every day. As I review my goals, I can feel how it reorients me towards my larger desires and longer-term destinations.

You are a ship on the ocean of life. If you don’t actively set and review goals, your ship will float around aimlessly, and you will arrive nowhere in particular.

Reorienting your mind, thoughts, energy, and actions to your goals every day is equivalent to charting and correcting your course, managing your sails based on the wind, and steering your ship with a rudder.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” — Tony Robbins

Surround yourself with people who encourage you

Often, the reason we ended up so open to feedback, so willing to adapt, is that we came from environments where that was our survival mechanism. Most of us no longer need to be in environments like the ones we grew up in, and we can instead surround ourselves with nurturing relationships.

We can take the skills we learned, the ability to adjust and adapt ourselves, and we can couple that with a circle of friends and family that encourages us and supports us in our dreams and goals.

The more we become aware of how we feel with other people, and we notice how others affect us, the more we can make adaptive choices in our friendships and relationships.

Over time, we begin to internalize these positive, affirming voices, and we begin to carry them with us. Increasingly we develop a sense of self that is strong enough to hear and accept negative feedback, and extract from it the nutrients that strengthen us, while excluding whatever poisons us.

When a tree is dying from lack of water, an attempt to train it into a bonsai will only kill it. Once a tree is fed and strong, it is then able to adapt and adjust to training, and it ends up being able to express a perfect, powerful symbiosis of nature and environment.

Feed yourself first.

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” — Oprah Winfrey

Just keep moving forward

The world-famous entrepreneur Richard Branson is apparently dyslexic. The most celebrated investor of all time, Warren Buffet, doesn’t understand technology businesses and barely uses a computer.

The common denominator for all people who succeed is persistence, persistence in pursuit of a goal. Remember this: it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are, or how skilled you are, or how much wealth you have; everything you need to succeed will come to you. Reality will yield to your persistence.

I often witness people that I love want to give up. I know that they can thrive, but they have one setback or another and assume it means they should not continue. The only thing stopping you from persisting is your choice. The only reason for not succeeding is not persisting.

A good friend recently told me that he was rethinking his life purpose because he didn’t get a job that he applied for. His life purpose had nothing to do with that job. That job was only one possible step on a long path. This man has so much to offer the world and to watch his will be broken by one small setback led to me feeling angry.

You are a force of nature! Your life purpose is chosen by you! Your goals are chosen by you! Reality will yield to you! How can one small life circumstance change anything?!

The trick is just to keep moving forward.

“Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.” — Rocky Balboa

Learn to receive negative feedback

I used to get really upset when people gave me negative feedback. I would sometimes both attack the person giving the feedback, and at the same time feel discouraged. I learned a lot from my psychotherapy clinical training, which was a long process of learning to accept, integrate, and grow from negative feedback. I’m not perfect at receiving negative feedback now, but I’ve come a long way.

The first step is to listen to the feedback, and to try to hear it as clearly as possible. Try not to react or respond immediately. Try to see the feedback from the perspective of the person giving it. Ask questions to clarify in your mind what the other person is trying to convey. While doing all this, attempt to hold the feedback within a larger container of your desired goal or outcome. Frame the feedback as a way that your goal is being supported. Long term, sustainable success in anything is not possible without growth and adaptation.

Also, try to frame the feedback as coming from a supportive perspective in the person giving it. If you’ve surrounded yourself with supportive people, then this should be true. If it seems like the negative feedback is really a form of contempt or attack, then address that, and try to find the underlying motivation. Ultimately, although it’s very challenging, we can grow and thrive from contempt being thrown at us, even if what we learn is just to honor our boundaries better and disconnect from that person.

Extract valuable nutrients from the negative feedback by imagining adjusting your future actions to take it into account. Try to see how you can improve, grow, or become more successful in pursuit of your chosen goals by integrating some aspect(s) of the feedback. This of course also applies to positive feedback. Remember that just as all negative feedback is not helpful, neither is all positive feedback.

Discard anything that doesn’t feel right, or does not serve you. Just politely leave it and refocus on your goals.

“It ain’t about how hard you can hit. Its about how hard you can get hit, and how much you can take, and keep moving forward.” — Rocky Balboa

Get enough rest

It’s really hard work to keep moving forward and to keep pursuing your goals. We often forget how much we need to rest and recuperate. A large part of training for any athlete is the time spent resting. Make sure you’re sleeping enough, and taking care of other aspects of your life, such as nutrition, your intimate relationship, and your friendships.

Sometimes we don’t feel like moving forward only because we’re tired, and we’re so used to being discouraged by negative feedback that we think that this is our body’s way of telling us that we should give up. Don’t give up. Just take a rest. All success comes from a process of sustained effort, from persistence. We persist at different levels of granularity: each moment, each day, each week, each month, each year. Your goal reviews will keep you on track, and remind you to reorient. Your job is then to make your life sustainable, to get all your human needs met. You are not a machine, and that’s a wonderful thing. You are an amazing creature, with complex needs. Get to know what your body needs from moment to moment, honor it, and allow it to propel you, sustainably, into positions of influence and power.

If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit! — Banksy

Take baby steps

Sometimes we get stuck and we don’t know how to move forward. If we allow this to overwhelm us then we will be stuck for longer. The longer we are stuck, the more stuck we feel.

The trick is just to move forward. Find something, no matter how small, that you can take action on. Once you begin to move towards a goal, by just one step, the next step will become visible.

Although you can plan a long journey if you have a map, most of the way is spent navigating the next few hundred feet. Your attention is needed here and now to deal with this one step, this one issue. As you complete that issue, as you turn that corner, the next section of the path will reveal itself.

Have faith that your goal is waiting for you, that you are steering a path to it, and that you will arrive at it eventually.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tsu

Spend some time doing nothing everyday

I’ve written a lot about meditation. Meditation is great, but what you need more than meditation is to do nothing. You could be sitting in a hot tub, or a bath, or standing in the shower, or swimming in the ocean. Be somewhere other than your desk, doing something other than your work.

It is during these times, when you make space around yourself and inside yourself, that you will see a clear path through to your goals. It is during these times that you will discover how you can keep moving forward effectively, and you will see what your next baby step can be.

In that quiet and the space your destiny will expand and fill your mind.

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” — Alan Watts

Believe in yourself like everyone else does

If you tend to doubt your competence, then you probably overcompensate by trying really hard, and getting really good at things. People around you probably believe that you are very capable, and they can’t understand why you don’t have more influence and power than you do.

The only person who does not yet believe in you is you. Instead of worrying whether you are capable, or worthy, of success, just keep moving forward. Give yourself as many opportunities as possible to surprise yourself.

“Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Christopher Robin

Make it into a game

You can think of the project in front of you as this ominous thing that you might screw up, or you can think of it as a game. How can you experiment with it? How can you try new things? What new tactics and strategies can you test?

We tend to think that play is for kids, and that kids need to learn to be sensible and learn how to work productively. This is bullshit. All productive work is really play. Kids play because they’re learning to get good at play, and play is the most important skill you can have.

All creativity and innovation comes from play. All problem solving comes from play. This is your opportunity to reclaim and deepen your childhood, and to do it in the service of the world. When you fully and deeply engage with play, you will change the world.

“This is the real secret of life: to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now, and instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” — Alan Watts


The world needs you to kick ass. You are more capable, more principled, and more deserving than many of the corrupt psychopaths and narcissists who currently occupy many positions of power, influence, and authority. Please use this guide to rise up and take charge of your destiny.

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An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives |

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