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An Egotist Has ‘I’ Trouble

How to acknowledge your achievements, but keep humility in sight.

Harvey Mackay headshot
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Harvey Mackay
An Egotist Has ‘I’ Trouble

Jim Tunney, the dean of National Football League referees, wrote a blog recently that caught my eye. He mentioned how when an NFL defensive player intercepts a pass, most of the defensive unit on the field runs to an end zone for a photo op. These players and many others feel the defensive unit is just taking pride in making a big play.

However, a fan wrote to Tunney, describing such tactics as showmanship and unnecessary. Then he asked how he should explain to his teenage son what pride is and how to define it.

Tunney had a great response: “Pride is like faith. You can’t touch it, but you can see it if you know what to look for. A simile might be that it is like carbon monoxide — colorless, odorless and tasteless. Intoxicating might be an apt word in that pride can be good or bad.”

Tunney created a PRIDE acronym. “P” was for personal power; “R” for responsibility (not blaming others); “I” for innovation (you predict the future by creating it); “D” is design (an action plan to achieve); “E” for everyone (as in T*E*A*M -Together Everyone Accomplishes More). Each of us needs all of us!

Pride is a complicated emotion. It can propel people to great accomplishments while also causing some to behave horrendously. Some people believe pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick except the one who has it.

Dark Side

Jessica Tracy, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, says the darker side of pride traces back to ancient religious scholars. She said: “In the Bible, pride is deadly. Dante saw it as a deadly sin.”

In her book, “Take Pride: Why the Deadly Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success,” Tracy writes about two different kinds of pride: “Hubristic pride and authentic pride.” The problematic hubristic pride is about arrogance and egotism. Insecurity is a chief culprit.

Tracy says authentic pride “is what motivates us to work hard and achieve. I like to think of it as a carrot, this thing that we want to feel in our sense of self. We feel it when we’re doing or working or putting in the effort to become the person that we want to be.”

Most often, pride has a negative perception. With Tracy’s definition, it should be a positive. There is nothing negative in taking pride in your work, your achievements or your employees.

Pride to me is being self-confident, but not egotistical. Pride is having a positive, can-do attitude because you will settle for nothing less than your level best.

I always admired Bud Grant, former Hall-of-Fame coach of the Minnesota Vikings, who told his players to “act like you’ve been there before” when they made a big play. In other words, the person who has the right to boast doesn’t have to, because the quality of their work demonstrates the pride they take in a job well done.

These are the elements of positive pride that I recommend:

• Build a reputation for good work. My father Jack always told me, “You spend your whole lifetime building a good name and reputation, and one foolish act can destroy it.”

• Embrace your role. Find meaning in what you do and see the big picture of how you fit in. Teamwork is critically important in business and many parts of life.

• Continue to improve. I’m a big believer in continuous education. You’re not in school once in a lifetime; you’re in school all your life.

• Stay true to yourself. History is full of people who showed great pride in working hard, but when they reached the top, they forgot the people who helped them get there.

Craig Brian Larson tells the story of Pali, a bull that killed Jose Cubero, one of Spain’s most brilliant matadors. Only 21 years old, Cubero had been enjoying a spectacular career. However, in this 1958 bullfight, Jose made a tragic mistake. He thrust his sword a final time into a bleeding, delirious bull, which then collapsed. Considering the struggle finished, Jose turned to the crowd to acknowledge the applause. The bull, however, was not dead. One last time it rose and lunged at the unsuspecting matador, its horn piercing his back and puncturing his heart.

Just when we think we’ve finished off pride, just when we turn to accept the congratulations of the crowd, pride stabs us in the back. We should never consider pride dead before we are.

Mackay’s Moral: Pride is the only poison that is good for you when swallowed. n

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine February 2022 issue.
Harvey Mackay headshot
Harvey Mackay
Published on
Feb 02, 2022
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