Know who you do not want to be

I was thinking about how people have come to use the phrase “Don’t be that guy”, as in “You know the kind of guy who [is or does something disreputable] … well, don’t be that guy.” I think the phrase is pretty clever, and that there is some depth to the idea behind it. Turns out I wrote about it—the idea, not the phrase—a few years back.

it is important to know who you do not want to be. And that knowledge comes best in the form of someone who is living it out. It’s helpful for me to understand the abstract reasons for not employing sarcasm, bombast, or pugnaciousness in my writing—but it’s far better to locate a writer who thinks just the opposite, and revels in those things as he writes on similar topics. By studying him I can get a fully fleshed out picture of the person who behaves that way, and strengthen my resolve not to become that kind of person.

I still think this is pretty good advice. I follow quite a few writers and thinkers because I admire them. And I follow others, though not as many, because they are excellent examples for me of how not to behave.

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