Books have changed my life. “Trout Fishing in America” taught me that there are people weirder than me. “Breakfast of Champions” taught me that if I do something really stupid, nobody will care that I intended to do something really smart. “The Silmarillion” made me so mad that I forced myself to read the son of a bitch three times so I could at least keep all the elves straight in my head. And now I find my life again changed by a book.

Last weekend my wife and I attended a huge street festival. On Saturday, 50,000 people shoved their way through eight square blocks of downtown Galveston, shopping for cheap silver earrings and lining up to buy shrimp on a stick as if they were lining up to be healed by the Shroud of Turin. But on Sunday the winter rain fell. We joined seven other people wandering the streets, watching vendors pack their trailers and go home to their TVs and beer. We didn’t walk those streets because we’re stupid. We did it because we’ve been conditioned to walk around festivals in the rain, as if there were a bell at the end of the street and Pavlov was our master.

At noon we dodged into a restaurant, but it turned out to be a store disguised as a restaurant, trapping unwary, hungry people in aisles of glass beads and cheap purses. We perused. In the back corner, between some tasteful scarves and some cocktail napkins with pithy sayings, sat a book, and the title snatched my attention. It was called “Assholology.” I don’t think anyone could resist picking it up to browse. I wanted to know what the assholes among us look like, how they live, and how to avoid them.

I read a few paragraphs and snickered. I looked at some chapter titles and became thoughtful. I scanned a bunch of pages and swallowed real hard. My wife was poking through some signs with pithy sayings. I said, “Sweetie, I do 75% of the stuff in this book. I must be an asshole!”

She raised an eyebrow at me. It made me feel like I’d just told her I was a vertebrate, something that would be instantly known by anyone who saw me walking around.

I looked at the book again. The authors were Steven B. Green, Dennis LaValle, and Chris Illuminati. I realized that I don’t want to be an asshole. I don’t want everybody to hate me, and I thanked these men for stopping me in time.

I internalized the book’s main premise. Assholes get what they want, and they get away with it. That made sense. Everybody hates someone who gets what he wants and gets away with it. You’re not supposed to get what you want, or else you should get caught and punished. I absorbed the mantra, “Don’t get what you want. Don’t get what you want. Don’t get what you want.” I whispered goodbye to that dream of a flat screen TV. But hell, I’d have to find someplace to hang the thing anyway, and I can spend the money on lottery tickets and caramel frappucinos instead.

I rushed on to specific asshole behaviors like, Always tip and tip well, Become the bartender’s best friend, and Treat your boss like he’s not your boss. Okay, from now on I’ll only tip exactly 15%, and only if I get good service. I’ll help that waitress understand how it feels to not get what you want. If I don’t get good service, that’s okay. At least I’m not being an asshole. And I’ll work to be a non-entity to the bartender so I can wait an extra 10 minutes for my whiskey sour. And I’ve got a lot of work to do in order to begin treating my boss like a divine potentate whose presence I’m not fit to contaminate with my tawdry self. These were going to be tough, but I could do it.

Finally, I faced the three essential qualities of an asshole. These things I must expunge from my being so I won’t be reviled by my fellow man. A thick skin. This makes sense. If I’m not an asshole anymore, no one will have a reason to hate me. I won’t need a thick skin. I can accept being devastated when someone tells me I sing like a mule with strep throat, or that my taste sucks because I like the movie “Frankenhooker.” That one’s easy.

The ability to say no to anyone. Perfect! I hate saying no to people anyway. Now when my co-worker wants me to work Christmas Day for her, or when my visiting niece wants to go to an un-chaperoned party at a lake house next door to a meth lab, I can just say yes. My life is about to get a lot less stressful.

Confidence coming out of, well, your ass. From now on I must endeavor to be too insecure to make a statement like that, even if I were talking about somebody else. I’ll have to rephrase it as: Confidence coming from a place we shouldn’t really be talking about, and you shouldn’t be having so much confidence anyway since it might make you look like a bad person, and people might not like you. If I say that, no one will hate me for being an asshole.

World, I am done with being an asshole. Prepare yourself to like me a whole lot more. I owe a profound debt to the brothers Green, LaValle, and Illuminati. They’re like the Three Wise Men riding Harleys instead of camels, and bringing bribes instead of frankincense. Their book stands as a magnificent signpost telling us how not to live. And it doesn’t have any damned elves.

Written by my new reverse-life coaches - available at Amazon, and at Barnes and Noble