Enlightened Conflict

where the line is between solid confidence and overestimated ego?

August 23rd, 2015

——————-confidence overdose

“Have more than you show,

Speak less than you know. “


William Shakespeare


“If you say I’m great, thank you very much.

But I know what I am.

I could be better …  you know? “


Keith Richards


“I exist as I am, that is enough.”

Walt Whitman








I hate egotistical people.



ego imagineAlright.



Hate is a big nasty word.


Let’s just say I have less patience for someone who is overflowing with confidence than someone who appears solid and tends to be more silent.



For once I will begin with my point <so you can stop reading after this if you want>.







I do not believe you can coach confidence.



I believe you can only help people manage self-doubt.



In other words … you either decide to manage how to live with whatever demons you may have inside or decide to mask them on the outside <with confidence>.



In fact … I could also argue that if you learn to live with the demons inside it can actually make you a much better person than the people who brim with bombastic confidence <the ones who have only learned to mask the demons>.







I tend to believe we confuse what is important on this whole confidence thing … meaning that maybe it isn’t really confidence but instead we should focus on words like ‘dare’ … or ‘courage’.





That said.



To me … confidence is not, and never will be, a character trait.



To me … courage is, and will always be, a character trait.



ego important

Courage is doing things despite the fear.



Confidence is faith <in your abilities and yourself>.




Courage is going forward even when you don’t feel that faith … on taking action in the absence of certainty that the task can actually be completed … if not completed well.






Labeling  behavior justifies it.







Did I just type that?




In today’s world we have become masters labeling everything. It permits us to “slot” things in our heads … and in the world … more easily.



In this case we have come up with labels to justify our self professed abilities. The big umbrella label is this thing called ‘confidence.’


I would suggest that simply by labeling it … well … it really becomes arrogance.



And we all know <I think we do> that arrogance is often a mask for insecurity or some other emotional difficulty.



Arrogance, or overestimated ego, can be cloaked in a variety of labels … maybe the most famous, and insidious, over the last generation is “type A” personality.





Type A has become not just a label but a fucking badge for people who think highly of themselves.



I read a fun little book recently called “Assholes” which reminded me that  regardless of the context associated with this badge … “I’m type A” most often precedes some asshole attitude or behavior.



50 something yelling

the categories encourage and launder shitty personalities – and that’s largely unhelpful. It’s possible, one would presume, to be overachieving without being the jerk who yells at the guy working the double shift on minimum wage … or to be decisive and effective without being totally full of yourself.






People who self-identify as type A use the term as a synonym for success.



“Hey, I may be a bit maddening at times, but it’s only because I have higher standards than you.”



The corollary to this standard Type A assholedness is that anyone who objects to ‘type A’ somehow simply becomes something ‘lesser than.’




Suffice it to say that this type A label is a fabulous example of how overestimated ego assholes use information incorrectly to forward their own agenda <in wily ways>.



We should note that over the years type A, and all the other letter personality types, have been warped by pop culture:

ego meter



… this is not at all how the term “type A” was initially intended to be used.

It first reached the mainstream in a 1974 book called “Type A Behavior and Your Heart” and its 1996 follow-up, “Type A Behavior: Its Diagnosis and Treatment”.

These books were not written by a psychologist but by a cardiologist, Dr Meyer Friedman, who described the type A category in mostly negative terms, as a group of angry, thoughtless people whose behaviour put them at heightened risk of a heart attack.

You know who else was type A in this schema?






Let’s just conclude point three by saying that labels are often fancy packaging for something less than what a truly humble confident capable person aspires to being.








The line between true confidence and overestimated ego can be a very fine line.







Thinking you can do something and believing you can do something is a very very fine line … and confidence or arrogance are things people use to drag themselves over the line.



Regardless … it can wear on you mentally wandering this line.



I say that because whatever tool you use to drag yourself over the line is often a mask for insecurity or maybe not full on insecurity but just underestimating themselves.






That’s called ‘self doubt.’



Uh oh.

be yourself but judged

As we all know … self doubt is evil … and sly … and has the ability to slip inside who and what you are and eat you up from the inside out.



Regardless … with any degree of self doubt playing a role n this formula … confidence <or full blown arrogance> is not the solution. It isn’t because that would simply mask the real issue.



The solution is facing self-doubt and learning to have a relationship with it <because you will never eliminate it>.



I read a survey somewhere suggesting survey something like 85% of us believe that we’d be more successful in careers if we were more confident. And 60% believe that greater confidence is one of the top two changes that would most enhance our career success <more than a better team, additional training or knowledge, or more time for actual work>.



Suffice it to say that most people assume confidence is critical for career success.



They are wrong.



Dealing with your inner critic is what is most critical to success.



Confidence means having the courage to argue with your inner critic.



Arrogance means you ignore your inner critic.



I would rather have the choice … and confidence means that at least I THINK I have a chance of out arguing my inner critic.



In fact.



Confidence can lead to maximizing a healthy inner critic.



Self-doubt can be insidious … but it can have some practical aspects. Practical in that it suggests you are approaching the edge of what you can do … or at least what you may feel comfortable doing.confidence comes not


It makes you stop for a second and assess the edge of the comfort zone.



In addition … your inner critic has an uneasy relationship with truth.

Many times it is not really telling you the truth and yet a part of you feels sure its words are true.



Confidence permits you to separate the ridiculous from the practical.



Confidence permits you to listen … assess … and step out of your comfort zone and make some progress.




On the other hand … arrogance means you just blindly step out of your comfort zone.






Arrogance blinds you and confidence means living life with open eyes.



Please note … while I made some very clear distinctions in discussing this ‘fine line’ … it is a fine line.


And any time someone suggests that confidence and arrogance are worlds apart I would suggest that they truly do not understand the issues at hand.






I sometimes wonder if the self-help “business” has added to our levels of arrogance. There are so many self-help books and self-help “gurus” espousing a selfish and preposterous “believe and you will get everything” mantra or “fake your confidence to get what you want” … it almost seems to suggest an arrogant belief in entitled success.






Let me spend some time on ‘overestimated behavior’ and why it can happen <and it happens pretty much to all of us>.





Overestimating is easy to do because we base future behavior <or success> on past success. That’s it.

And, unfortunately, far too often the answers we had yesterday are not ‘the’ answers necessary for today … or tomorrow.



As stated earlier … confidence is not static.




illusion mine mistake——

“Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.”


Earl Gray Stevens


“Thoughts aren’t facts.

Just because we think something, does not mean it’s true.”


Lucy Elizabeth




Confident people accept the fact they don’t know the whole truth … heck … the whole of anything … and are comfortable, or ‘quasi-comfortable’, with partial glimpses of things.





“No human being is constituted to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and even the best of men must be content with fragments, with partial glimpses, never the full fruition.”


William Osler




I would suggest that confidence is actually a state of mind. It’s the feeling of self-assurance that arises from the appreciation of your abilities and qualities.



You believe you have something, or a combination of things, to offer … knowledge, skills, and/or maybe some experience.



I imagine it is kind of knowing that you can get the job done.


But that doesn’t mean we do not overestimate on occasion as we vie the next job to be done.






To be clear … it is often a constant struggle to not overestimate your behavior and instead simply seek to do the best you can <and while it may not actually be ‘the best’ it is a job well done and you don’t overestimate what you know based on a job well done because you always recognize there is ‘more knowledge’ to be found>.



All that said.



Just so everyone doesn’t think I didn’t do any homework on this assignment … some research on talent or confidence and what drives success.



To me this brings to mind the chicken or egg discussion as well as perception versus reality.








While I am going to share some research … let me suggest one thing first:






Perception versus reality.



False confidence <you don’t really have the ability> supports the ‘fake it until confidence homeryou make it theory’.



This is about creating a perception of confidence.



And anyone rising up thru an organization, good or bad, has to do this or they die in an organization. You almost always assume responsibilities on the way up that you have no clue on how to do but you figure it out. After a while this experience <actually doing it> either creates a sense of overblown confidence or a realistic ‘I don’t know what I am doing but will hunker down and figure it out’ attitude.


The former is bad.


The latter is good.







Chicken or egg.


Does confidence drive success or success drive confidence?





Research studies on drivers of success inevitably judge confidence against … uhm … well … success. I would suggest that success breeds some confidence. If you don’t experience success in any amount that matters … well … your confidence lags.



<I wrote back in 2013 that Confidence isn’t worth shit:  http://brucemctague.com/confidence-is-worthless  >






That’s just the way it is.


There is a correlation between experience <doing something> and confidence.


Therefore confidence is not an attitude it is actually something you do.



That is “understanding reality.”


That is “understanding what your strengths & weaknesses are.”


For example … here are some thoughts on typical quoted research I mentioned earlier:






– According to Medical News Today, confidence, not talent, is a driver of success. Researchers at the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Haas School of Business found that those who were more confident experience more success than their peers, despite their talent.



<what they fail to note is that of two people with disparate talent but similarly confident … the ‘more talent’ has more success>

 ego at the door





– According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology those who appeared more confident achieved a higher status than their peers. At work, “higher-status individuals” tended to be more admired, listened to, and had more influence over group decisions.



<what they fail to note is that if the ‘appear confident’ was not matched with good decisions or actual behavior they no longer appeared confident but rather looked ‘overestimated ego.’>






– Business News Daily also published studies on confidence that suggested confident employees have more fruitful careers than their peers who aren’t as self-assured. Their research discovered a correlation between confidence and career success and also revealed that those who self-reported higher levels of confidence earlier in school earned better wages, and were promoted more quickly.




<what they fail to note is that the confidence is also linked with ‘courage’ and ‘courage to try’ both of which reflect “you are more likely to have success if you get in the game then if you do not”>






What does all that mean?


Is confidence really the key to greater success?






Confidence is inextricably linked to tangible doing. With no link … it is not confidence … it is empty arrogance <or overestimated ego>. We always need to remember that confidence is not static. Our confidence to perform tasks can increase and decrease. Some days we even feel more confident than others. And how we perform our tasks can create the overall ebb & flow.


Assertiveness, confidence and self-confidence are linked to these tasks <action> & behavior. As people become naturally more assertive in actually doing things confidence follows & develops.




“On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”


George Orwell



I do wish more people were reminded that confidence, the frame of mind or ‘believing’, is only a part of the equation … and in fact percentagewise it probably represents the smallest fraction <albeit a powerful little fraction> and that performing, doing, taking action is really the majority of success.



I do wish more people were reminded that true confidence is paid off with a deed … and typically a deed done well <not just completed>.




Therefore if confidence isn’t backed up by actual skill … well … you’re delusional … and that equals an overestimated ego <or arrogance>.


ego amigo

In the end.




To me … the line between confidence and overestimated and overblown ego is defined by the deed. And even then some arrogant asshole is going to misconstrue the quality of the deed they did, versus the reality of ‘lesser quality than what they attribute to it, … simply because we all have our blind spots … and arrogance increases the depth of the blindness.





“When we define ourselves by what we can recognize, by what we can comprehend- rather than, say, by what we can describe- we are continually under threat from what we are unwilling and/or unable to see.


We are tyrannized by our blind spots, and by whatever it is about ourselves that we find unacceptable.”




Adam Phillips





Arrogant people are constantly tyrannized by their blind spots.



Confident people see the blind spots, accept they are there, use innate curiosity to eliminate or limit the blind spots … and keep on aspiring to do better each time.



And maybe that is the truest of distinctions between arrogance <overestimated ego> and confidence.



Curiosity every day.






Because curiosity leads to learning more and learning leads to skill acquisition.


Getting better each and every day, getting into the “know more” business rather than the “here is what I know” business.



And embracing curiosity doesn’t have anything to do with confidence or arrogance … but courage. courage to accept what you do not know, publicly & privately, and proceed forward ‘forthwith.’


<I just wanted to use that word>



Arrogant people with overestimated egos are cowards.i am 1



They don’t have the courage to face what they do not know.




They don’t have the courage to admit their best is not really the best … just a skill that gets the job done in the here & now.



Arrogant people have to be blind to their blind spots because if they were not the truth would kill them.




“If the truth shall kill them, let them die.”


Immanuel Kant

but it might just work

July 10th, 2015


smart risk may work just

“A million to one chance but it might just work.”


Terry Pratchett






Taking chances.



We all do.







smart risk taking may workWe all convince ourselves we do.



Some of us are willing to take chances when it is a 90% likelihood <or we feel like it is a 90% likelihood>.

That’s not really truly taking a chance.




Some of us are willing to take a chance when it is somewhere above a 50% likelihood.

That has chance involved.



Some of us look at the likelihood & probabilities and even though say it may look like a million to one odds … well … we say ‘it just may work’.



Suffice it to say … how you take chances … and how often … says a lot about who you are as a person.





How about it sends a message out to everyone surrounding you and they look at you as some type of person?


Someone who constantly thrives on million to one chances scare the shit out of people.




Someone who constantly thrives on almost certainty chances bores the shit out of people <which is a poor leadership quality>.



The gap between those two things is massive. And it is a black hole of chance and choices so deep it can eat you up if you are not careful.



More careers have disappeared in this black hole than can be counted. And because so many have disappeared the majority of people lean toward ‘certainty’ in actions and behavior. This obviously leads to mediocrity. And mediocrity leads to self-disgust <in some form or fashion>. Disgust may be a harsh word but it is the unfortunate shadow of self-disappointment.


Where ongoing disappointments stands … disgust is never far away.




impatient think question look

“… do you ever get so disgusted with yourself, like you can not believe how stupid and thoughtless you are and it’s so frustrating because you keep telling yourself that you’ll do better next time but then next time rolls around and the same thing keeps happening and you end up in this pattern of mediocrity.”


(via anawkwardbreed)




I am certainly not suggesting seeing “it just may work” as standard operating procedure.




I always remind people … you don’t know what you don’t know and once the marbles start rolling it is difficult to predict where they will go. In other words … how well, or poorly, you adapt and react can change the odds moment by moment. What may look like a million to one in moment one may look more like a 50/50 chance moments later.



“It just might just work” has some optimism. The ‘just’ & ‘may’ suggests no false optimism but rather an acceptance that there is huge risk, the odds are against you, but you are willing t play the game and see how it ends.



This is not only a personal thing but also a generational, age, thing.



Older business people have created this wacky attitude of a false security of behavior predict Brainpredictability. And they take refuge in this attitude tending to be excessively cautious under the guise of ‘it will not work’ <based on my worldly wisdom> rather than viewing things as ‘it just may work.’



Security ranks higher than risk taking.



Unfortunately, this means that many of these same people, and their businesses, lose out as they lack the courage to make changes or adapt to a changing environment <which actually impacts the odds >.



False security of predictability often leads to missing experiences that bring necessary change.



Risk taking is usually considered a characteristic of youth. Young people seemingly never hesitate to try new activities, to move to new places, to change routines & to challenge the status quo.



I believe it is not based on immaturity or lack of experience but rather they can often view a situation or scenario with a different eye … and therefore derives different ‘chance’ to the potential outcomes.





I love when young people in business do this and I encourage them to articulate their thinking as well as possible. My objective is to view it as they see it through their eyes. And once I have achieved that … I then assess ‘chance’ based on that view <rather than the initial view I may have had>.



2 things come of this:




1.    Invariably I find the odds are truly different after listening. They see things we don’t see and it creates a different path of possibility. It may not shift it from million to one to certainty … all I am suggesting is that the chance ratio changes.

2.    I can actually convince them that it truly is a million to one chance and that it ‘just may not work’ without sounding like an old curmudgeon who doesn’t listen or doesn’t want to explore new ways of doing things.






“It just may work.”




Far too often older managers in business refuse to say this let alone even think it. And thinking it is half the battle.


Brain activity, thinking muscles, increases with challenges … new activities and new experiences challenge established ways of thinking about life & business.



You know what?


“It just may work” isn’t really about risk taking or being risk adverse … it is about thinking and thinking about possibilities.



Too often older people associate possibilities with risk taking. And while predictability brings a sense of security it also means you lose out on the rich experiences of thinking, curiosity & exploring. And maybe that is why young people get so cranky with older business people.



It’s not that they don’t see older managers take risks … it is that they see older managers aren’t even curious with regard to the possibility that someone may suggest something that creates an ‘it just may work’ moment.



In the end … I like to remind people that success is contextual, situations and environment are constantly changing and ‘it just may work’ chances are also contextual.



No one … not even the most brilliant business person in the world … can always envision every inevitable moment or aspect of a process. Far too often the marblestravel of success is often best viewed as marbles rolling on a flat table … that is being rocked. It just may work then becomes dependent upon how well you can avoid, deflect and direct the marbles.






I would like to note that nothing in that last paragraph suggests predictability.





About the only thing I can predict about 99% of things discussed in business is ‘it just may work.’

Enlightened Conflict