Too Much of a Good Thing

Last week I was having breakfast at the Waffle House in Lexington, VA which is one of my favorite breakfast places and I heard someone say with pride, “I work in retail.” It was evident that this person was so proud of her job and her company.

There also happens to be a young server at this Waffle House named Hailey who takes great pride in her work and is great at making customers feel welcome. She also is a single mom who goes to college on her off days and beams with pride every day about her adorable baby girl. As I sat there listening to the retail worker speak proudly about her work and watching Hailey bring smiles to her customers, I was thinking how wonderful pride can be and how having pride in what we do and how we approach life is such a powerful mindset.

Then, almost instantly, I recalled a paper I wrote in college many years ago analyzing two books by Dostoevsky. In contrast to what I had just been thinking, the main characters in these two books ended up in misery and with lousy fates because they actually suffered from too much pride. And I vividly remember a key quote from the book, “There is no greater force in humanity than that of the egotist let loose in the ecstasy of pride.”

We all know people who are too proud and impressed with themselves. They rarely have staying power in anything and their excessive pride is evident in their arrogance and/or over-confidence. Dr. Carol Dweck in her magnificent book, “Mindset”, speaks about people who have a “fixed” mindset. These people feel they already know enough about success or mastery in what they do.  In many cases, I believe they have too much pride.

I believe to achieve greatness in any profession we need to be confident and proud of what we do. And when our pride is balanced, it’s likely because we know our purpose and we are living a purpose-driven life each and every day. However, when our pride becomes excessive, we can be seen as arrogant and success is far greater to sustain because we feel “we got it” and people – those we work with and those we may lead – see us as cocky.

When you look in the mirror and self-reflect, what do you see?  Is it a balanced pride and self-confidence with a keen focus on your purpose? Or rather, do you see an individual who could be viewed as arrogant and egotistical by your peers and your people? Whatever you see, look even deeper as there is perhaps no greater force that can drive self-improvement than self-reflection.  The beauty is that regardless of the current vision before you, you have the opportunity to grow and change.  I believe the key to that improvement is fully understanding your purpose and living a purpose-driven life.