Donald Trump: Client From Hell

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Reading an article in NYTimes, Trump Vs. The Constitution, I had flashbacks to my freelance web design days.

Back then, I had some impressively stupid clients. Web design being such a technical job involving hours and hours of coding, clients often had zero understanding of how it works. This opened up the door for “Executive Idiots” — they believe they can wave their hand and make magical things happen, without realizing how stupid their demands were. Of course, they don’t know how to make websites, so they hired me. But when you hire an expert, you should listen to the expert.

I’m reminded of the popular saying: “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”

You can take a look at ClientsFromHell.net for more examples.

It’s somewhat less common in the 9-5 world. I’m not understating how many Executive Idiots there are in 9-5 — I’m just saying that if you haven’t freelanced for random wannabe cult leaders in Los Angeles, you have no idea. It takes a special brand of “disconnect with reality” to sacrifice everything else in life to pursue fame.

Executive Idiots have ZERO technical experience — therefore, they have zero respect for those who do. They don’t CARE how it works, or what’s involved. All they care about is their whims being executed, right now. Why isn’t it done yet? We’ll get someone else to do it. (Guess what: no you won’t.)

As the Rush (or Metallica) lyrics go, arrogance and ignorance go hand-in-hand. The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive incapacity, on the part of those with low ability, to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their competence accurately. Their research also suggests corollaries: high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.

I wish it weren’t true, but in my experience it is — those who have the least technical knowledge are the most confident. Executive Idiots don’t gravitate towards deep expertise in anything, because that would require self-discipline and hierarchical thinking. They don’t think systematically, and don’t care to understand how things are connected. That would be too boring and take too long.

Web design drove me insane for this reason. I hated telling people why I could not do what they are asking. It was like I was the bad guy. And this was not a rare occurrence. This was daily, on almost every project.

“I want to make it do x.”

It didn’t matter if we had already agreed it would NOT do x. They get an urge, and suddenly they want to add a feature that is literally 10x or 100x the work and cost. And if you can’t do it, that’s your problem. “I thought you were good at this.”

After 20 hours of programming and design, they could (and would) at any moment, change directions on a whim, rendering all that work useless. It reminds me of Bighead from Silicon Valley, who goes bankrupt moving his backyard pool repeatedly.

My job was not “doing my job” — it became more about protecting the project from the same Executive Idiots who hired me.

And Trump is The King of All Executive Idiots.

He is not a logical, sequential thinker. He does not consider the consequences of his decisions, or all of the details involved in the complex machine he is trying to operate. He wants to get in the cockpit of the most advanced fighter jet and fly it because he’s confident. Who cares what all those buttons do?

This is what we now have as President. A person with no experience, who doesn’t understand how his job or anything in the government works, who speaks before he thinks, decides before he comprehends, acts without consulting experts, and is being handed the world’s most powerful army — and nuclear weapons.

And the problem is deeper: he’s not an expert on anything at all. Non-experts have a lack of respect for experts. They think experts just haven’t figured out how to be Executive Idiots, and that being “The Boss” is better than being an expert. Many people on his transition team have — surprise — zero experience.

Trump is not a person who has learned the discipline of systematic thinking or even basic analysis in any field. He acts on impulse, without information, without understanding. He’s a person who would break whatever he would try to work on. His presidency will be the equivalent of opening a computer and yanking out cables and components.

In his career he has been rewarded through being obnoxious and controversial — not from thinking clearly. And this has gone unnoticed to his supporters, who suffer from the same educational deficiency.

Trump is a non-intellectual, if not an anti-intellectual. He’s not a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist. He’s not even a writer. He has no idea how to build a functioning machine of any sort. He only knows how to bully and intimidate.

He’s a failed businessman: when casinos, steaks and fake universities didn’t work, he became a reality show star. That’s right: his previous job was to show up and be an asshole on camera. Any financial success he has not managed to destroy has been in spite of his life-long ignorance and egomania. As long as the amount of money he makes is more than he squanders on disastrous projects, he convinces himself he’s succeeding.

Trump is an attention whore — the worst internet troll of all time. He has fallen into the trap of believing that applause and booing are success. Not creating value, not deep work, not anything that requires focus. That wouldn’t be dangerous enough. It’s like a little kid who gets in trouble to get attention from his parents. He has proven he can’t go for more than a few days without writing or doing something intentionally controversial. But now he is doing it on a scale of “civilizational importance” (Sam Harris term).

He is a client I would never take on, because any project started by him would undoubtedly collapse under his irrational command. This is not a person that should be in charge of anything, not even a McDonalds.

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