A few years ago I came across a podcast called Death, Glory or Disappointment, one of the episodes was titled “Be More Villain.” In that episode the show host, Dan Meredith talked about how many of us could learn lessons from villains. I’ve always been shy, lacking in confidence and a bit of a people pleaser and for some reason being a little more villain resonated with me. It’s wasn’t about hurting people for person gain, of course, but pointing out, for example, that villains are often more confident than the heroes.
As a writer, I believe that the stories we tell ourselves can have a powerful impact on our lives. I don’t remember what Dan’s thoughts on the topic were, exactly, because it’s been awhile, but since then I’ve taken the idea and played with it in an attempt to reach my goals. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen a little bit of it in action with my monthly Evil Plans, but I wanted to share a little more how the idea helped me (and maybe it will help you!) be just a little more of who I want to be.
1. Don’t care what people think.
There are people in your lives whose opinion should matter to you, friends, close family members and maybe bosses and coworkers for example but the rest of the world? Shouldn’t matter so much. Do you think Emperor Palpatine said to himself “You know, some people might not like me establishing an empire?” No, he wanted to do it so he did. Your dreams, your goals, who you want to be— those are your business and you shouldn’t let people who have no impact on your life matter. There are going to be people who don’t like it but don’t let it bother you. As long as you aren’t setting out to hurt people (A little bit villain, not actually villain!) you should do what makes you happy.
2. Say no
This is one of those things that feels baaaaaad sometimes. I struggle with this one a lot. I want the people I care about to be happy. I want the world to be happy, and somehow in my head this becomes giving people what they want. The problem is that it sometimes comes at the expense of what I want. There has to be a balance of doing for others and doing for yourself. So, if you are like me, and tend to fall too far on the side of saying yes to what other people want too often remember: you can’t take over the world if you’re always baking cupcakes for the PTA. (Did that make sense? It made sense in my head.)
3. Take over the world
When I was a little girl my mom told me that if I wanted to do or be something I should set my goal to the highest level possible and in trying to reach it I would reach my actual desire which was lower. At that time I wanted to be a singer so I set my goal to be the President of the United States. I think something was lost in translation.
Maybe her point was that you should aspire to be the best at whatever you do. I remember reading another writer’s bio once and it said they wanted to be a midlist author. To me that sounds like I saying you want to be mediocre. Now, most of my favorite writers are midlist authors, so obviously I think they are awesome writers but do I think it was their goal to land in the midlist? No, I think their goal was to be the best writer they could be and I’m sure they hope to be bestsellers someday. I think they focus on their craft and strive to improve and write a better book each time.
I try to go into each book I write with the attitude that it’s going to be amazing. I think this helps me put my heart into the project and improves the chances that it will, actually, be something worth reading.
Here is a place where you want to look to the one-dimensional villains for inspiration. I’m talking about the ones who know what they want and show absolutely no doubt they will achieve it. Studies have shown that those who have confidence are more likely to succeed than those who don’t. Of course, there are issues with having too much confidence too but I don’t think I’ve ever had that issue.
Villains know what they want and they go after it. They are going to steal all the diamonds and be rich forever. Not steal all the diamonds, get the nock list, weaponize dinosaurs, etc etc. They have one goal and focus on it with a singular intensity. Their goal my change and they often change paths to try to get what they want but, for the most part they are focused on one thing and one thing only.
To be a well rounded person you’re going to have more than one priority: family, finance, career, health and so on, but I’m really just talking career here. If you have something big you want to accomplish you are going to be more likely to succeed if you put other goals on the back burner. I want to be a successful novelist. I also love to learn new skills and hobbies but to do my best at writing I have to let a lot of that go. You can accomplish a lot of things if you focus, but you can’t accomplish everything, all at once.
One thing almost all villains do is fail. Okay, occasionally you’ll have a book or movie where the villain wins it the end but for the most part villains fail, they don’t get what they want, they end up broken and defeated, and you will too. Wait… .what? This whole time I’ve been talking about how being more villain is a good thing and now I’m saying it leads to failure? Right! Here’s the thing villains fail, but they get back up and try again. Failure is part of life, you can’t avoid it. If you are putting yourself out there, if you are doing all you can, stepping out of your comfort zone, at some point you will fail. If you don’t you probably aren’t trying hard enough.. If you want to succeed, you have to be willing to fail.
You may be thinking–but villains don’t succeed, and if they do, it’s temporary! That’s true, but remember villains are BAD people and you are not a bad person. Or maybe you are. I don’t actually know.
7. Stay the course
Villains don’t give up. They are defeated time and time again by the hero but they just keep trying. They believe in their dreams and no amount of logic or common sense in going to stop them from trying again.
Of course, that’s also true of heroes, isn’t it?
In fact, if you look at the list heroes and villains tend to have a lot of traits in common. The reasons heroes fail tend to be the traits they don’t share with villains and vice versa. For example a hero might fail because of a lack of confidence where a villain will fail because of overconfidence. I think most of us tend to fall on the hero side of things though, so many of us could learn something from the villains.
Plus, it’s more fun to pretend you’re going to take over the world.