As a member of the creative and marketing industry for the past 20 years, I’ve been exposed to a wide-range of businesses and people. Like many of you, I’ve benefitted from some of the best possible behavior humankind has to offer. However, I’ve also been subjected to some regrettable souls. The people for whom creatives provide services are often referred to as “CEOs,” “CMOs,” “Directors,” “VPs,” “clients,” “customers,” or “business partners.” From my perspective, there are better descriptions available.

In my experience, there are idiots. There are assholes. And there are believers. Nothing else exists.

In a perfect world, I would have some kind of omniscience that would allow me to avoid all of the assholes and idiots, and to only work with the believers. Unfortunately, there is no real test for identifying idiots and assholes BEFORE the engagement agreement is signed. All too often it takes time for idiots and assholes to reveal themselves. However, here are the tell-tale signs….

Idiots

You’ll recognize idiots because they have only a vague idea about what they want or need. Idiots lack vision, and they refuse to trust those who possess it. They hurt projects by delaying or failing to make the necessary decisions to move forward. Idiots also make the mistake of needlessly involving too many other people. Their over-inclusiveness is a mask to cover the fact that they don’t have a plan. Idiots are scared. They settle instead of excelling. They water down greatness.

To be fair, perhaps idiots are only ignorant. They don’t know what they don’t know. But these kinds of people, especially those who fail to recognize their ignorance, create frustration. The result is that people, processes, and projects shut down under such conditions. It is woefully painful to work with an idiot.

The good news is that there is hope in idiocy. Idiots can, and often do, change. They are capable of becoming believers. Keep your head up idiots. But you will need to work with people who are more experienced or smarter than you, and preferably both. If you do that, you’ll be fine.

Assholes

Assholes, on the other hand, are a lost cause. They will never change.

I’ve never met an asshole who later became a non-asshole. They won’t because they already know everything. They don’t work with people; they use people. Assholes are dominators who are only interested in their own power and perspective. Assholes are uber-selfish and arrogant. They often suffocate the human spirit and kill creativity. They irritate, dictate, and foster a culture of fear. They literally ooze assholery. Few things fresh, innovative, or great ever come from an asshole and, when they do, peoples’ self-esteem and careers are crushed in the process.

I’ve also never seen an asshole transform into a believer. Not once, ever. Avoid assholes when you can. And when you cannot, get away as soon as humanly possible.

Believers

Believers. Ahh….Believers. I love them. You love them. We all love them. The best thing about believers? They trust. They trust people. They trust the creative process. Believers trust because they understand that trust is encouraging and inspiring.

Believers also give. They give information. They give constructive feedback. They give freedom. Believers give all of this because they understand the creative process is not perfect but instead involves fluid circumstances.

I also think believers trust and give because they understand that creatives yearn for and feed off of it. Believers understand that it is risky to create, and the creator exposes himself to judgment and criticism, which makes him incredibly vulnerable. Believers know that providing an environment and relationship that is based on freedom and trust is a sure way to reap the full benefits of creative talent.

The next time you engage a creative, for that matter any new service, don’t be an asshole. Instead, be a believer, and watch what happens when you give and trust. My prediction, the results will surpass your expectations, and make you – and your product or service – look great.