How to Be Obnoxious and Get Ahead
April 6, 2016

How to Be Obnoxious and Get Ahead

by Brian de Haaff

I know an attorney who many consider to be obnoxious (and it is not just because he is a lawyer.) He is quick-witted, abrasive, and eager to argue his point of view. And he is also a close-talker. But here is the thing — most of the time, he is right.

I consider him a friend — even when he annoys me and I need a little separation time. And guess what? He is also wildly successful.

If you have been alive for any period of time, you know people like my attorney friend. We all have our own peculiarities, and often those oddball characteristics are what make us great.

But unfortunately, many people in the workplace today have internalized the opposite message. They have been taught that they must take the “personal” out of work in order to succeed.

They cover up anything that might make them stand out, and muzzle any character quirks deemed undesirable or obnoxious by others. But I disagree with that thinking.

You should be allowed to release your best self at work — even those obnoxious parts you have stuffed away and told to be quiet.

Now, do not get me wrong. I am not talking about behavior that disrespects anyone else. I think we all have an obligation to avoid harming others, and should do our best to avoid hurting ourselves as well. What I am talking about is feeling free to be the same person all the time, even in the workplace.

Yes, it takes courage and vulnerability to finally set your ego free. But do it anyway.

The more you allow your authentic self to come through, you will experience more:


You will rediscover parts of yourself that you thought were gone for good but were only forgotten. Those personality quirks are key to your creative flow. And once you stop limiting yourself and allow those fresh ideas to start bubbling up, you will achieve much more — because you are finally being true to yourself and developing your own potential. No matter who you are, achievement with integrity is what really matters.


Researchers have found that our happiness depends on our internal qualities and character strengths, not outside factors. So, if you want to pursue happiness, do not squelch the very characteristics that make you who you are and bring you joy, even if they might be off-putting to your coworkers. Other people will also benefit from finally getting to know the real you — even if they do not always agree with everything you say or do.


It takes guts to be who you really are, regardless of what anyone else thinks or says about you. Let this be a defining moment — the day you decided to stop living by everyone else’s standards and started living by your own. That act of protest will strengthen your character and shore up your confidence — and make it easier for you to venture farther in the future.


Curating that perfect, work-appropriate facade requires a great deal of energy — and to what end? By the end of the day, you just feel weighed down and you fail to grow. You will feel tremendous relief when you cast off that rigid role and decide to accept yourself just the way you are. When you stop caring what others think, you can follow your own path and do what you want.

Remember — this is not about choosing yourself over others or deliberately sabotaging your relationships. It is about being more of the genuine you, and using that to your advantage and to benefit others on your team.

We live in a messy, imperfect world filled with curious, imperfect people. To try and change that or pretend otherwise is to live an inauthentic life — and miss out on fulfilling your own potential.

Stop living to please others. Start being yourself. Life is just too short to be anyone else.

Do you agree?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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