In this article, we look at ‘arrogance’ from a less traditional, self-centric perspective.
There are only a couple character traits that people should really avoid, and arrogance is probably one of them. No one likes arrogant people. They overstate their abilities, they squash other people down, and it all really is an unpleasant experience. A recurring thought that I’ve had over the past year is the utility of arrogance: Does being arrogant actually help you in any way, and when would arrogance be permissible?
I went to Jack Delosa’s entrepreneurship Unconvention in Brisbane in 2015. One theme that was apparent in almost every keynote speech made by the extremely successful entrepreneurs at the convention was the need for self-belief in one’s own dreams.
Now, a dream is usually a bigger and better version of what we are—or what we have—right now at this very second. So in order to actualize our dream, we must have a real, delusional conviction in a future in which we really are better than we are today in our skills and achievements.
That is why I think arrogance is the long-neglected ingredient to success. Perhaps ‘arrogance’ is not the best choice of language, but it does nicely encapsulate the mindset of believing that we can be fundamentally better that what we are at the moment, that we do have the potential in a concrete sense. ‘Confidence’ could easily fit the same description, but I think that ‘confidence’ is more about self-belief in the present and not in the unmade future. I could be very wrong about this, but ugh, definitions… Language is plastic right? I mean… Shakespeare made up his own words!
As I reflect on my experiences and particularly my failures, I realize that I could have probably used more arrogance-not the traditional “I’m better than everyone” arrogance, but the “I am better than myself” arrogance that I outlined above-in my thinking. Many times I crumpled beneath the weight of self-doubt and insecurity. Many times a lack of confidence conjured imaginary obstacles in my path that ultimately deterred me from setting in motion the first steps of actualising a big dream. In such cases, I could have certainly used a dose of neo-arrogance to propel me, like “Of course, I’m good enough to do that” or “Even though I can’t figure it out now, I know definitively that I will be able to succeed.”
Humility is great, but excessive humility is also dangerous. The social fetishizing of humility does come at a cost, and that cost is an overly self-effacing attitude that many of us could frankly do without. Of course, the important thing is to be a decent person who doesn’t boast—a very sensible maxim that most people understand. At the same time, however, we need in our world a greater number of bold thinkers, daring thinkers, thinkers who believe in a better version of themselves and the world, thinkers who are resolutely convinced of the inadequacy of the status quo, thinkers who believe that “I am better than myself, period.”
So yes, arrogance in the sense of being obsessed with dominating the conversation and being superior to other people is very not okay and a textbook example of faux pas, but arrogance in the sense of having resilient and positive self-belief in an intangible future is very okay and should, in fact, be encouraged.