How to Repay Your Enemies

September 4, 2012 — 18 Comments

How do you repay the people who fucked you over?

It is a little harder to get into one post just because there are so many ways that people can wrong you. There is the overt action: the attack, the theft, the lie, the deliberate slight. And then there is the let down, the negligence, laziness, and occasionally, there’s someone with contagious bad luck. Most of the time, we ignore it. As we should. But sometimes, we can’t.

Imagine you are Sam Zemurray. You try to give friendly advice to the company you love, try to contribute through the proper channels, but they slam the door in your face. They are running your baby into the ground. You know what must be done.  So you go to the board meeting in New York City, you sit there quietly. Then you raise your hand and speak. They laugh in your face, mock your difficult accent. You storm out, maybe they think they’ve won.

When you return, it’s armed with the stock proxies for a majority share in the company. “You gentlemen have been fucking up this this business long enough. I’m going to straighten it out.” And now it’s time to drop the hammer: “You’re fired. Can you understand that, Mr. Chairman?” as you fling the bag of proxies across the table.

Sometimes an aggressive strike, or even revenge, is not emotion—but strategy (like a co-worker who is steadily encroaching on your projects despite discussions, or perhaps you need to generate a little controversy to get press). Robert Greene calls this “knowing when to be bad.”

One element of mastery is the ability to no longer need to react emotionally. To know what you need to do and not be distracted by immediacy. Repaying your enemies properly—and effectively—maintains that rule.

Only the top predators can afford to toy with their prey. As Ambrose Bierce once said, real skill is to “stab, beg pardon and turn the weapon in the wound.” Only the best can manage effective action as an artistic statement. But those who can, have all the fun.

A sad part of it all is this: people do you wrong out of incompetence a lot more of than they do out of malice. If they were consciously trying to harm you, believe it or not, they’d probably have done less damage. I’m not saying that because it take the sting out of it. Rather, that you can’t get back at someone who already lost—who can’t get things right even when they try. These people, you must ignore.

But as for the rest of our lives, there is one unescapable political fact: People will fuck with your stuff. They will treat you bad. Mess things up. Try to disrespect you or keep you out. What happens? You get pissed and you feel like murdering them. You sit there and stew and rage and rant. You’re only tipping the scales further out of your favor.

As I tried to explain to myself a few years ago in exactly one of these moments, this is no reason to grind your teeth. Smile, they just gave you an opportunity. Not an excuse, but a justification.

Enjoy it. Learn from it. Remember, as Plutarch one titled an essay, How To Profit By One’s Enemies. In a world, where so much will go wrong and sadly, so many people will wrong you, you better know how to turn it something positive or at the very least, into a cathartic game. Or you will be one angry person.

How to Repay Your Mentors

August 20, 2012 — 12 Comments

How do you for people who have done so much for you? How do you thank them?

Well, first let’s get something out of the way. Very rarely does anyone else help anyone else out for genuinely altruistic reasons. Unless your mentors were blood relatives, they took an interest in you in large part because there was an interest in it for them. Having a whiz kid or a protege around is good for business, that’s why they’re doing it.

So deliver. Have your shit together. Want it more than they want it for you. Don’t be crazy. Spot new opportunities, never care about credit. All the “Advice to a Young Man” stuff.

But after that, when it comes to all the intangibles–everything they gave you that extends way past any reasonable definition of “work obligation”–there is only one thing you can do: earn it. They invested time in you, they gave you a bit of their truly non-renewable resource. You can’t pay them back. You can only make it have been worth it. Validate the investment and make it clear that you appreciate it. Be a good person; do what you love.

Without being cheesy, I also have to discuss the final step: paying it forward. The people who gave you your first job, showed you their secrets, picked up the check when you couldn’t afford to? They don’t want that stuff back. They want you to see you learn from their example. I’m not saying it’s good karma, but think about it like this: the stuff they gave you, that wasn’t a gift. It was given to you in trust. You don’t exclusively own that knowledge, you aren’t entitled to profit from the advice, you didn’t get some free ride. No, you just got access to it for a while, access that was contingent on you referring other deserving people to it down the line. Got it?

As we get older and more successful, we find ourselves in the position to help people. We were once in their shoes, and we know how we got from there to here. We find meaning in that journey and want other to experience it. At the same time, success makes us soft. It alienates us, makes us a little less hungry. But our experience makes us smarter–we know that our skill combined with someone else’s inefficient but fresh energy would be potent. More potent than either attribute in isolation. Which is why both parties seek each other out and benefit from it.

Just remember that that’s what mentorship is. And that whatever role you play in that equation at whatever time, you better fulfill it completely. It’s what you owe.


August 10, 2012 — 45 Comments

I think savagery is underrated. We talk so much about personal development and refinement that what gets lost is that other part of ourselves, the darker, animalistic part. “Inspiration” is so much cleaner and less objectionable that it’s all we want to focus on. I’ve never been one for convention, so I’ll say what needs to be said here. Being savage is a good thing.

Let me be clear, what I’m not talking about are the kind of evil people who inflict harm on others. Or rely on physical intimidation for their success. There is little excuse for that in today’s world. What I’m talking about is a kind of self-directed savagery in a contained setting. When William Hazlitt was talking about the “wild beast resuming its sway within us” he was condemning the mob/tribe mentality, but I think it can also be a positive motivational factor.

I think about savagery when I go out and run–after hours of work, weeks of it in a row–every single day in the Louisiana heat. I enjoy sweating so hard it stings my eyes. I smile if I catch myself teetering a little bit towards the end. I’m not running for exercise, I’m running because there is a part of me that is a little bit savage. And I give it free reign and I benefit from it. There is savagery in juijitsu, which I do 4-5 days a week when I’m not traveling. There’s something savage about getting destroyed round after round and the fact that I keep coming back for more. I suppose I could get better faster by reading and studying but I think it’s better to do it this way. I go to get my ass kicked for a reason, and it doesn’t bother me that I do. I relish it a little bit. And mostly I learn from it.

In 19th century dog fighting, bull dogs weren’t the strongest or most aggressive dogs, but the fat and extra skin around their neck made it harder for other dogs to tear their throat out. Dogs could clamp down on it, but they couldn’t kill. That’s fucking savage. There’s a lesson there.

You don’t have to be the best, you just have to be harder to destroy. You have to be relentless. Indefatigable. Sometimes, to get in the right position, you have to be able to absorb a lot of blows. You’ve got to know you’re taking hits for a reason, and have the tolerance and endurance to bear it. If you can actually enjoy and seek out that process? Well, then you’re a fucking savage. And you’re going to be very successful.

Responding to Peter Shankman

July 23, 2012 — 35 Comments

Some of you may not have seen this because it was buried in a lot of the other more interesting press, but last week I completely blew up the PR/blogging industry by revealing the fatal flaws in (HARO). The revelations garnered such an enormous outcry that HARO (and some lazy, entitled people in the journalistic and PR communities) had to respond. Naturally, they decided to strike back at me personally. It doesn’t surprise me that they did this, but that doesn’t mean I am going to tolerate it.

You can check out my reply at the Huffington Post: Honoring a Reporter’s Obligation: Dissecting Peter Shankman’s Hypocrisy

Did I expect people to have a strong reaction to this book? Sure. Did I think that, when faced with my accusations, some in the media would try to blacklist or marginalize me? Of course. But they forgot one thing: I don’t need them to get my message out. I never have. And unlike Shankman, since I am not repressing my hypocrisy–in fact, I have unloaded it–I am able to to look at all this calmly, and rationally and respond appropriately.

I hope you enjoy it. Let the discussion begin.

Welcome to Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

July 18, 2012 — 36 Comments

Release week for Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator is here. If I am as good as I say I am in the book, you should be hearing, seeing and reading a lot about it.* If you want updates on what’s happening about the book, tour dates for me, and links to articles I’ve written recently, check back to this post going forward. If you’re coming to this site for the first time, the links below should tell you a little bit more about me. Or just read this bio. Hope you stick around and don’t forget to subscribe to my reading recommendations

**If you really want to help me out or haven’t bought the book yet, pick up an extra copy on Barnes and Noble. It’s same price as Amazon and counts better for my NYT list sales**

**There is also special deal for the book on AppSumo this week. You can give it as a gift since it comes with a bunch of extras**

Upcoming Events/Appearances:
7/18: TUNE IN LIVE: Marketing Master Mind Session with Lewis Howes at 8pm EST
7/19: TUNE IN LIVE: Media Mayhem with Allison Hope Weiner at 4pm EST
7/19: Book Launch Party in New York City (hosted by Michael Ellsberg). All are welcome, must rsvp. 9pm est
7/31: Book signing @ Octavia Books in New Orleans
8/15: Book signing @ Book Soup in LA
8/22: Keynote at TNW Latin America in Sao Paulo

Articles I’ve Written: How Dropping Out Can Change Your Life (Tim Ferriss): The 5 Top-Performing American Apparel Ads, and How They Get PR for Free (NSFW)
Forbes: What is Media Manipulation? A Definition and Explanation
Columbia Journalism Review: Our gullible press, Ryan Holiday explains how the singular pursuit of traffic…
Forbes: How Greenpeace Manipulated the Media Like a Pro: Analyzing the Shell Oil Hoax How Your Fake News Gets Made (Two Quick Examples)
[Much more to come this week]

TechCrunch: Keen On…Ryan Holiday: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
Huffington Post: Ryan Holiday, Author Of ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying’, Wants To Break The Media
BlogcastFM: Confessions of a Media Manipulation with Ryan Holiday
BloggingHeads.TV: Diavlog with Drew Curtis of
Media Mayhem with Allison Hope Weiner: What Makes a Story Go Viral with Marketing Strategist Ryan Holiday
Chase Jarvis Live: 90 minute mastermind interview with me
CTV: Me discussing the future of music and Alex Day
Tribal Author: Book Marketing Breakout: Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying
Rise to the Top: Exclusive 90 min interview with me
Daily Dot: Media manipulator Ryan Holiday finally comes clean
Communication Lab: 1hr podcast with me on writing, media manipulation and news
BoingBoing: Gweek Podcast (really good)

Recent Press:
New York Post: PR exec tells all about manipulating the media — and spreading lies online
Forbes: How This Guy Lied His Way Into MSNBC, ABC News, The New York Times and More
Daily Dot: Exclusive excerpt: “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator”
Austinist: Tucker Max’s Publicist Is Really Good At His Job
BoingBoing: Man Punks Journalists
FastCompany: “Media Manipulator” Ryan Holiday Proves His Point By Getting This Story Published

Poynter: NY Times, CBS, others fix stories that featured fake expert Ryan Holiday
BoingBoing: Book trailer: Trust Me, I’m Lying
MediaBistro: 24-Year-Old Marketing Director Lands Major Book Deal
DIY Themes: How A Reformed Media Manipulator Uses The Web To Generate Sales
Silicon Bayou News: Book Review: Ryan Holiday’s Tell-All on Manipulating the Media

For those of you new to me and my writing altogether, here are some of my most popular posts:
The Narrative Fallacy (also see The Soundtrack of Your Life Delusion and The Second Act Fallacy)
Advice to a Young Man Hoping to Go Somewhere
Schemes and Scams
Read to Lead: How to Digest Books Above Your “Level”
Contemptuous Expressions
A False Sense
Stoicism 101: A Practical Guide for Entrepreneurs
The Experimental Life: An Introduction to Michel de Montaigne
Is This Who You Want to Be?
The Dress Suit Bribe

*This blog has never focused much on my work (writing instead about philosophy, life and strategy) and I’ve only talked a little bit about my book here. I plan to keep it that way, so don’t worry. However, with the publicity for the book and all the press planned for this week there is going to be a rush of new readers.