Copyright 2012 by John T. Reed

My book Succeeding is about how to succeed in life, mainly picking the right career and spouse but also less momentous decisions.

Keith Olbermann would appear at the moment to not be succeeding. He left, in various contentious circumstances, ESPN, Fox Sports, MSNBC, and most recently Current TV, Al Gore’s network. And that sentence is a gross understatement of all the trouble he has been in with his bosses, colleagues, and advertisers during his career.

An accomplished asshole

Olbermann is widely considered a jerk and an asshole. I agree, but that is merely taste and I do not believe anyone should care about my tastes or the taste of others. What I want to do here is use Keith Olbermann as a training aid to get across some important points about succeeding in life.

Keith Olbermann suffers from Keith Olbermann Syndrome (what are the chances?). So did my father and one of my uncles.

I do not suffer from it. I strongly urge against succumbing to it in my Succeeding book, although not by that name.

Slow learner

Olbermann has not gotten into his current predicament because he is an asshole. He has gotten into it because he is a slow learner. Don’t be a slow learner.

One chapter in my Succeeding book is titled “What you can change and not change.” Its point is that the can and should change those things about you that are adverse to your success, like being overweight. But it emphatically says you must not waste any time trying to change things you cannot change, like your height.

In Olbermann’s case, he cannot change the fact that he is an asshole.

Can’t please all of the people all of the time

But on page 150, I quote the great philosopher Connie Francis who said,

Everybody’s somebody’s baby.

A corollary to that is

Everybody’s somebody’s asshole.

Which is another way of saying,

There’s no accounting for taste.

To paraphrase what someone said about terrorists,

One man’s asshole is another man’s freedom fighter.

Some people like assholes. You make your living by relating to other people in a way that causes them to pay you money. If you are an asshole, you need to find a way to locate and transact with those who like assholes.

Life is really simple when you think of it that way.

Your five high school friends

Remember high school. You had one or two close friends and probably a handful of other good friends. Unless you were a big man on campus, that was about it. The big men on campus had more friends, or maybe “friends.” They were politicians: all things to all people. They are good at reading people and reflecting back what they sense people want to see and hear.

But most of us were not politicians.

Find your medium

That brings me to media. Another chapter in Succeeding is titled “Find your Medium.” It says that there are about two dozen media, e.g, TV, face-to-face, writing (the way you and I are currently relating to each other), athletics, arguing in court, etc.

You need to find the medium which is best for you to relate to others and thereby extract money from them.

Singing is one medium. It is not mine. I would starve to death trying to make a living as a singer. I was briefly in the cast of Up With People, a singing and dancing troupe. Indeed, in their Wikipedia write-up, I am listed as one of their “Notable former members,” along with Glenn Close, who was in it at the same time as I. In one of my early performances, the girl next to me decided to tell me “You can’t sing” right in the middle of a performance! She did not say it so anyone else could hear. I responded, in the middle of the performance, “I know.”

But in the writing business, I do quite well. Same guy, different medium. You have to get the medium right to optimize your success.

Some media require that you be a collaborator

So did Olbermann not get the medium right choosing TV? Actually, I think he is in the right medium. But one of the sub issues about media is that many media are collaborative because they are capital intensive and you probably do not have enough capital to buy, say, your own cable TV network and make it successful. Oprah has enough money to buy one, but not to make it successful.

The discussion of the economics of media, sponsors, and the need to collaborate when you do not own the network starts on page 60 of Succeeding.

You can and should pick and choose among the media to find the one that matches you best. But if the medium where you do best requires that you collaborate with a team, then you must also be good at collaborating.

That’s a key point.

I’ll discuss it on two levels. First the way Olbermann’s previous colleagues would probably describe it.

No I in team

Big-time mass media requires big money. It typically comes from billionaires, sponsors, cable subscribers, cable companies and requires on-air talent to attract the former. Attracting and coordinating all those disparate groups requires a skilled team. There is no I in team. While the advertising department is busting their asses selling time on the Olbermann Show, they do not need Olbermann antagonizing the target market of the prospective advertiser by gratuitously insulting them. You want to be a big-time, on-air, TV personality, you gotta be a team player.

Then there’s the way guys like Olbermann would put it.

I gotta be me. The reason they tune in is because I am interesting, exciting, provocative, etc. Without me, there is no show. Who are they gonna replace me with? Some bland guy who never offended anyone but who never captured anyone’s attention either?

So who’s right? Both. Olbermann is a weed at ESPN, Fox, MSNBC, and so on. I was a weed in the U.S. Army officer corps. Watch my YouTube of why you should not be a weed.

Sell to your five friends

Back to the high school friends analogy. I was a guy with a handful of friends in high school, not a big man on campus. When you are in a regular organization, you sort of have to be a politician to do well there. You have to make all sorts of people like you, including many who would not have been in your circle of friends in high school. You are putting yourself in a position where you have to be the class president, captain of the football team type. If that’s you, fine, but for most people, that is NOT you.

But what if you could relate only to the five people who would have been your friends in every high school class in America? On THAT campus, you would be a big man. Is there such a campus? Sure. In targeted media.

I have hundreds of thousands of readers, maybe millions if you count everyone who ever was one of my readers on a repeat basis. Is that because everybody loves me? No way! Rather they are the five who would have been my friends had I been in their high school class—at every high school in America. How do we find each other? I put out an article or a book, a cross section of all the various high school classes read them. Most do not like me and just read one thing. A few do like me and recommend me to their friends, and so on and so on.

Could not get along with bosses

My dad and my Uncle Jack were guys who could not get along with bosses, like me. Actually, a more accurate way to put it would be that we refused to go along to get along and most bosses require some of that. So we three, my dad, my uncle, and I have to work for ourselves.

I did. They did not. Why did they not? I am not sure. My dad tried once opening his own 5&10. But it failed and he never tried again. They just kept working for others and getting fired. Not saying they were not fired for valid reason. Company owners get to pick who works for them.

Indentured servitude

My situation was a bit odd in that I was an indentured servant. I graduated from West Point. When you do that, you have to serve in the military for five years after graduation.

At age 17, when I entered West Point, I figured, “No problem, indeed, I want to make a career of the Army so I will be in for 30 or 40 years.” At 17, I neither knew who I was or what the Army was or what the alternatives to the Army were. Such people are not in a position to commit to four years at West point plus five more as an Army officer. It is criminal that the U.S. government permits 17-year olds to sign such a contract then enforces it. It is literally indentured servitude, which has long

been outlawed everywhere but in the military.

But by age 21, when I graduated, I figured out that my being in the U.S. Army officer corps was a big problem. I was a weed there. Turns out, I am an entrepreneur, the opposite end of the spectrum from an Army officer. They are obsequious, empty-suit, organization men. “I gotta be me.” The Army officer corps is the ultimate ass-kissing, boot-licking, brown-nosing, servile, “go along to get along” organization I have ever seen. What a disastrous paring!

So fine, I figured that out when I was still a cadet, decided to become a real estate investor (one-man company) and proceeded to study that field pending my getting out of the Army after my five years was up. I actually got out a year earlier because they could not stand my defying them with regard to the OPUM and OVUM. If you want, you can read more details of my life before, during, after the Army in Succeeding. The short version is I lived happily ever after the Army.

Olbermann the non-collaborator

Then there’s Olbermann. He wants to be a big man on the mass media campus. Not gonna happen, Keith. You are not enough of a politician, not enough of a collaborator.

You’re an asshole and there’s a market for assholes, but it’s not as big a market as the market for politicians. In mass media, Keith, you are a weed.

As Succeeding says, the solution to being stymied by something you cannot change is to change your situation. You need to go where your strengths are wanted, appreciated, needed, and rewarded, and where your weaknesses are unimportant or irrelevant.

My dad, my uncle, and Keith Olbermann never figured out that they had to stop trying to work where their weaknesses were important.

Imus, Stossel, Beck, me

There are several other prominent examples. Once upon a time Don Imus was a big man on the mass media campus. Now he has been reduced to Westwood One AM radio syndication and a simulcast on TV on Fox Business. For the time being at least, he seems to match the audience size, has less finicky advertisers, and is less vulnerable to campaigns by the likes of Media Matters to force him off the air.

John Stossel used to be a big man on mass media at ABC 20/20. But he was a weed. Too resistant to going along to get along. Now he is at Fox Business and seems to be thriving and happier.

Then there’s Glenn Beck. He was on CNN then moved up to Fox News and was having best selling books and leading a huge march on Washington. But he said once that Barack Obama does not like white people and that was the beginning of the mass media end for him.

He was probably right about Obama. I claim Obama is a crypto reparationist—trying to sign laws that disproportionately hurt white people—including bankrupting the federal government—while disproportionately helping blacks.

So how come I can say that and Beck could not, at least at Fox News? I own the whole company and control my content production, printing, and distribution. On Fox News, Beck had team, collaboration, mass media, capital intensive, and all that.

Beck can say it now. He owns Glenn Beck TV. Glenn Beck TV is an Internet TV channel. It has subscribers paying $9.98 a month. I don’t know if he has advertisers. According to the Wall Street Journal, he now makes more than he did on Fox News just two years ago. Does he now have fewer viewers than on Fox News? Yes, but he has more than Stossel has on Fox Business. And Beck reportedly makes about twice as much money per year on his own than he did working for Fox News. Stossel said that to Beck on Stossel’s show.

I was in the book stores for 20 years

For 20 years, I was in book stores including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. nationwide. In 2001, after I complained about late payments and other mistreatment, my book store distributor, Publishers Group West, fired me. Thereafter, I self distributed and still do. New copies of my books are only available at my Web site.

Did my book sales go down? You bet. Instead of printing 4,000 to 8,000 on a press run, I started printing quantities of 200 to 2,500. But my net income went up by 257%! Fewer books sold overall but far more profit per book for me. You can read all about that in my book How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Own How-To Books and in some articles at my web site. Roughly the same economics Beck has enjoyed.

Publishers Group subsequently lost a lawsuit to me and had to pay me $23,000 for books they sold for which they would have only owed me $9,000 if they had behaved themselves. They later went bankrupt.

So Keith Olbermann needs to start and own and be the star of the All Assholes All The Time Network on cable or on the Internet. He might be able to succeed on XM satellite, with podcasts, as a game show host. Basically, he needs to stay within his asshole self. Stop trying to be a big man on campus in the mass media world. Stop suing former employers. Sell to his act to his five friends in every high school class in America.

If you can’t collaborate, and Keith and I and Don and John and Glenn and my dad and my uncle could not collaborate, stop collaborating. Is that so hard to understand?

Go where your strengths are recognized, needed, and rewarded and where your weaknesses are unimportant or irrelevant. Since you can’t collaborate, you need to own the content and the means of distribution. (See my article about controlling your distribution.) Will your audience shrink as a result? Of course. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. To stay on mass media TV, you have to be somewhat of an empty suit, one of those people like Greta or Bill who run every word through several filters to make sure they do not offend. That’s not you, Keith. Stop making the mistake of trying to be that. Let Keith be Keith, and in order for that to happen, Keith needs to start working smaller rooms.

More importantly, all the people reading this need to look at their own lives to see if they are suffering from Keith Olbermann Syndrome. Trying to play office politics around the water cooler when that is not their medium or their crowd. If you are weed where you are now, move to where you are no longer a weed. Change what you can change about yourself and where you cannot change yourself, change your situation. Find your medium, and if you are not a collaborator, do not consider the media that require collaboration.

For more on matching yourself to a career and other ways to succeed, read my Succeeding book.

John T. Reed