There is No Them

Lessons on leadership from the world of game development

Kicking Ass and Taking Names

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When you hear the phrase ‘kicking ass and taking names’ do you have generally positive thoughts? Does the idea that having a strong personality that can get down to business and get stuff done, not letting anyone get in your way, sound like an admirable thing?

Or, does this phrase make you shake your head, bringing back the memories of the jerks you have worked with in the past that seemed to live by this credo, seemingly unaware of the tumult and emotional abuse the create?

It occurred to me that at one point in my career the phrase ‘kicking ass and taking names’ was an anthem I aspired to live by. I grew up in a culture where having a strong force of will was often more important than having the best idea. That I could win any argument was something my management praised me for, because it meant I could get things done others could not. But I look back on this and realize how misguided I was.

‘Kicking ass and taking names’ may, as a singular act, make you feel good in the short run. ‘Winning’ the argument, because the other side just gives up may seem like a victory. This kind of victory is hollow as they don’t lead to real change. Remove the jerk who is ‘kicking ass and taking names’ from the situation and the culture reverts to what it was before, often thankful the jerk has left. The jerk has therefore failed, because instead of making things better in a sustainable way, he used methods which gave the illusion of progress but ultimately resulted in very little real value.

I can readily admit to having been that jerk in my past, though I am not happy about it. And yet, seeing my lack of sustained success is what caused me to question my methods, which lead me to consider an entirely new framework to operate within. That new framework, There is No Them, turned out to be signficantly more successful for me and for the people I worked with.

Bringing people together is better than separating them. But it’s often harder. Whether this lesson is learned the hard way, as I had to, or from the mistakes of others, the sooner you accept the truth of this lesson the better.


Written by joshuahoward

August 12, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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