I just returned from my weekly classical literature discussion group. There, I posited that Saint Paul was a psychopath. It seemed timely since Easter was only a couple days ago. And behold, there was much push back.
Given that I have a blog or three, and the other guys don’t, I get the last word.
Psychopaths get a bad rap. Of course, part of it is the name. The word Psychopath rings darkly in the ears. Perhaps a re-branding? Summon the consultants…
Many of my personal heroes were functional psychopaths: Patton, Churchill, Charlie Wilson. Who else? Astronauts score high on psychopathy tests, along with successful business execs, accomplished surgeons, great politicians (can’t think of any living politicians that fit that description), bomb disposal experts, SEALs, hedge fund tradres, and so on.
Most people think only of Killer Psychopaths. Academic research reveals that the vast majority of psychopaths are socially functional like those above. Their mental sharpness, charm, and lack of fear actually enable them to be outperformers in the cultural chaos that is the modern, secular, frenetically paced world.
The Persian poet Rumi claimed that “anyone who is calm and sensible is insane.” Perhaps then, the socially functional psychopath is actually more sane than the average (boring, rule abiding, non-threatening, beta, risk averse) good citizen.
“Manie sans delire,” or “mad without being mad,” as the Frogs say.
Let us consider all the admirable qualities of psychopaths.
They care not what others think of them. Marked by “shrewdness and agility of mind, they talk entertainingly and possess extraordinary charm.” How about mental toughness, charisma, focus, persuasiveness, coolness under pressure, and “other such qualities that separate the men/women from the boys/girls.” Foregoing emotional hangovers. Stoicism, the ability to regulate emotion, to live in the moment, an altered state of awareness, to be heroic and selectively empathetic…
It might be said that psychopaths are marked by a lack of neurosis, that plague on today’s overstimulated consumer capitalists society, thus making them healthier than the average population.
What is functional psychopathy? Fair question. Perhaps it can be defined as Fearlessness Minus Bad Decision Making Calibrated for the Social/Moral Context. For our bizness purposes, that would be the We Win Together thing. Since we are fellow travelers on this journey to business nirvana, we should consider a commonality shared by psychopathy and spiritual enlightenment: “anchoring your thoughts unswervingly in the present, focusing exclusively, immediately, on the here and now, as a cognitive discipline.”
Now let’s get back to Saint Paul: he sanctioned the death of an untold number of good, simple religious folk after their leader had been publicly executed. In today’s world he’d be tried for genocide under the Geneva Convention. To his ruthlessness, after seeing a light and hearing a voice, he added fearlessness, focus, drive, and charisma. For the sake of the executed leader, he endured three ship-wrecks, 24 hours adrift at sea, multiple imprisonments totaling six years jail time, was brutally flogged many times including three times to 40-1 lashes, the max allowable to a Roman citizen, beaten by rods three times, and once stoned by a hysterical crowd and left for dead. He confronts his new religion’s primary leader, Saint Peter, directly, calling him a hypocrite, which one academic characterizes as a “total failure of political bravado and Paul soon left Antioch as a persona non grata never to return again.”
Of course Paul did author several hundred pages of the best selling book of all time (the Bible), took his religion to Rome where eventually one of the Roman Emperors adopted it and the rest of Western Civ is History. A functional, effective psychopath indeed.
What does this all have to do with Nice Guys trying to not finish last at the corporate game? Well, you need an edge. Maybe a little functional psychopathy in your life can help:
Leadership Traits as the Flip Side of the Psychopathic Coin:
Ability to Influence/Manipulation
Visionary Thinking/Fabrication of Intricate Stories
Ability to Take Risks/Impulsivity
Action Oriented/Thrill Seeking
Ability to Make Hard Decisions/Emotional Poverty
Wrapping this up, the Brits did a country-wide survey of their workforce called the Great British Psychopathic Survey (no really, not making this up). Those scoring high on the scale were, in order: CEOs, Lawyers, Media personalities, Salespeople, Surgeons, Journalists, Police Officers, Clergy, Chefs, and Civil Servants.
Low on the scale were Care Aides (low paid nurse), Nurses (higher paid nurse), Therapists, Craftspeople, Stylists, Charity Workers, Teachers, Creative Artists, Doctors, and Accountants.
What’s your ambition?