3 Essential Ways to Escape the Jerk Cycle

How to be a jerk in 1 easy step

Make it all about you.

A few years ago, I visited the Miccosukee Indian Village here in South Florida with my wife and her family. We stopped by on New Year’s Day to watch a few shows, some alligator wrestling, observe the natural beauty of the Everglades, and of course, to eat alligator (different than the one that was just wrestled – I think).

While on this trip, I thought I was coming up with some rather humorous jokes, and others seemed to be laughing a bit at the things I was saying.

And then things started to turn a bit snarky.

When we approached a live alligator enclosure, I noticed a digital camera in the water, sitting nearby an 11 foot monster of a gator. Feeling confident from my morning of inspiring others to laugh at my self-proclaimed comedic genius, I decided to share my next joke with everyone in earshot.

“Hey everyone! Check it out! Free camera – just reach in a grab it!”

I heard some nervous laughter, but what caught my ears was the crying – no, sobbing – coming from the person standing next to me.

A girl of about 10 years old with tears running down her face looked up at me. Then I noticed her rather upset looking parents glaring at me.

Her mother commented:

“That is OUR camera. It just fell in, and it has all our vacation photos from the past week!” (The exact reply was a bit more colorful).


The shortest path from one point to another is a straight line.

I managed to find the straight line to being a jerk – Make it all about you.

I cannot tell you how embarrassed I felt in that very moment. I just prayed for the ground to open up and swallow me whole and let me disappear. The only other time in my life that I have been that embarrassed was when I wet myself during tennis lessons with the entire class watching.

See what I did there? I just made it all about me again.

So what can we learn from experiences like these?

Here are 3 Ways to Escape the Jerk Cycle

1. Be aware of the tone of our thoughts

When we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves, it can lead to an attitude that is very self-centered and entitled. Examine your thoughts and determine how much of the time you are thinking positively about others. Now work to increase that amount.

2. Be aware of the content of our speech

Listen to yourself for a day – are you asking others questions, letting them shine? Or are you more interested in impressing others with your greatness?

This is called the “Neal Armstrong Effect.” Imagine being at a dinner party, where everyone is trying to out do each other with their great stories about the places they have visited.

I went to Hawaii. Well, I went to Japan.

“Well, there was that one time I went to… the Moon.”

What do you say after that?

You just got Neal Armstronged.

3. Be aware of the focus of our actions

Do you spend most of the day taking care of your own needs? When you have a free moment, how do you spend it? Who does it benefit? Actions speak louder than words.

As we move into 2014, it is a good time to stop and reflect on this thought:

How do I want to be known in 2014?