Career Speedbump No. 4: You “believe your own press”
There’s a counter-intuitive nature to success. What seems paradoxical is that too much success too often and too early can actually weaken the chances for success down the road.
We’ve seen it in celebrity culture for a long time now, and it in aristocracies for ages before that. A person acquires fortune and fame early on and sets out on a hot streak of good luck. Everything is fantastic until that luck changes (which it almost always does) and the person cannot cope with the setback.
What causes that? Hubris. What is hubris – it is an overestimation of your abilities, a sense of entitlement, and over-confidence in yourself that goes to a place that you believe you’re better than everyone else. Hubris can sneak up on you if you aren’t lucky enough to face adversity along your path. You become too comfortable with being a winner, so defeat sends you into a spiral.
So what is there to protect you from hubris? Confidence is a necessary trait for accomplishing anything, so is optimism and self-esteem. Hubris comes when you’re missing an essential ingredient that keeps it all in check. That critical element is humility.
Humble confidence is that special combination of optimistic confidence that is guided by a sense of humility that grounds your self-opinion with a hefty dose of reality and objectivity. One of the best examples to explain this concept is the idea of good sportsmanship. If you win, you don’t let your ego get out the best of you. Instead you remember that things broke your way at the right time and you put in the effort to do a good job. If you lose, you also put the ego in line by remembering it’s just a game and that you can try harder next time.
Humans thrive in groups when our sense of cooperation tempers our sense of competition. The same is true for our inner lives. Our sense of pride does best when tempered by a firm grip on the facts of life.
“Don’t believe your own press” is a reminder not to believe the stories being told about you, but look at the facts of who you really are. Yes, you may be the greatest ever at something but having the humility to admit that even the GOAT can fail is the hallmark of character and the antidote to hubris. Hubris will keep you down when you fail, wailing about what is lost and how the glory days are past. Humility will keep you getting back up when you stumble so you can keep trying. The truly great embrace humility with confidence.