Handbook for Psychopaths

Today some of our staunchest defenders of freedom seem to regard one freedom as supreme—the freedom from ever having to learn from their mistakes again.


They have settled on a simple yet formidable formula that achieves this freedom almost every time. You’ll want to know this formula, either because you’ll want to use it or because you’ll want to foil it. It doesn’t work when it’s exposed for what it is.

So here it is, the formula for becoming an infallible legend in your own mind.

Lie about anything with a straight face: If you can do that, you’re free to be as inconsistent as you need to be in order to follow the remaining rules.

Never apologize, never back down: No cracks in your armor, ever.

Project: Whatever they suspect you’re doing wrong, accuse them of doing before and after they get a chance to accuse. Never let them turn attention to your failings. Keep them focused on theirs, however small in comparison to yours.

Feign umbrage, outrage, disappointment and any other shaming emotional response: Never miss an opportunity to make those who disagree with you wrong. Remember, you’re infallible; they’re wrongheaded about everything from beginning to end.

Face your choir, never your opposition: Never honor your interviewers with your full attention. Grant it only when they support you; otherwise, be dismissive and derisive, sharing a smirk at their idiocy as an inside joke with those who support you.

Say anything that revs and flatters your crew: Never disappoint them. Pander relentlessly. Keep them thinking that just you and they are living in a world of fools who don’t see it your way. 

Keep them thinking that a goal is a plan: Eyes on the prize, ignore how you’ll win it. You’ll win it by being winning. That’s all you have to say. “I have a plan. My plan is to win.”

Treat oversimplification as bold realism: Ignore consequences. Pretend there’s a straight shot from your bold impulse to assured success. Call it determinism, not shortsightedness.

Fasten firmly into your double standards: Dismiss your opposition’s concerns as wimpy overwrought whininess and your concerns as bold clarion calls to urgent action. Dismiss their opinions as inappropriate hearsay, and claim your opinions to be as significant as facts regardless of whether they defy facts. Police their moral standards as inappropriate “political correctness” and uphold your standards as sacrosanct principle. Treat their proposals for change as reckless defilement of tradition and your radicalism as visionary and revolutionary. 

Across the board, hold them to the highest standard while giving yourself a free pass: You deserve it because you know you’re right and have integrated your righteousness into your gut. So all you have to do is follow your gut.

Use this formula and you’ll get ever-greater affirmation that you’re right about everything. The formula is self-reinforcing. The longer you remain an infallible legend in your own mind, the more convinced you’ll be that you are one in the reality that you ignore so well.

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