Alas, Success Too Often Leads to Hubris

Robert Terson

Have you ever heard the expression “Pride Goeth Before a Fall”? I’m sure you have. Pride is another word for hubris, or arrogance. In other words, being so full of yourself that you know it all and are quite willing to “share” your vast expertise/knowledge with everyone you encounter, whether they seek your advice or not. I mean, why deprive these poor souls of the information/answers they’re so obviously in need of, right? Especially since you have all these answers and the generous spirit to enlighten the entire world.

I’m thinking of a young man I recently met. He’s in his mid-40s, the top salesperson in his company. He’s smart, talented, articulate, innovative, good looking, and has achieved a remarkable degree of success—personally, as well as in business. The man’s a winner, no doubt about it. He’s also the most arrogant human being I’ve come across in years. He has opinions (judgments) about everyone and everything, and he’s not the least bit reticent in letting you know about these opinions. Nor is he reticent about letting you know what you should be doing about this, that, whatever. It’s his duty to do that, because, well, he doesn’t want you to foolishly keep making all the mistakes you’re making, when he can set you straight, put you on the right path.

I admire the level of success he’s achieved, I really do, but it irks the hell out of me that said success has fueled an attitude that can be best described as hubris run amok. Not only that, I genuinely like and care about this young man, and so I’m fearful for him. Why? Because “Pride Goeth Before a Fall.” When you have it all figured out, when you know everything, have all the answers for the world at large, you’re setting yourself up for a tumble down the mountain that just might crush you. At the very least, it’ll set you back for a while. To say nothing about all the people you’re turning off before you begin your fall. Trust me, this same young man wouldn’t put up with the behavior he’s dishing out, if there was a million-dollar prize that came with it.

Here are some quotations you might want to hang up on the wall:

“I am sufficiently proud of my knowing something to be modest about my not knowing all.”

― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”

― Thomas Sowell

“It is the mark of the mind untrained to take its own processes as valid for all men, and its own judgments for absolute truth.”

― Aleister Crowley, Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on The Book of the Law

“People who worship only themselves get a slick, polished look — like monuments. Too bad they had to go so soon.”

― Vanna Bonta, Degrees: Thought Capsules

“When we don’t put the brakes on our self-absorption, we have nothing stopping us from total self-destruction. We become the fruits of our actions.”

― Zeena Schreck, Beatdom #11: The Nature Issue

“Even great men bow before the Sun; it melts hubris into humility.”

― Dejan Stojanovic

“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”

― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


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