You don't have to be arrogant to succeed but….!

Water confidence course

Like many others I was brought up with dire warnings against the sin of hubris.

Hubris means extreme pride to the point of arrogance True hubris usually indicates a loss of contact with reality and a substantial overestimation of your own abilities.

I wrote here last week about the value of confidence in your own ability – self efficacy!

Of course, interesting questions are what is too much confidence and what risk does it carry?

In fact,  research suggests that there can be benefits for an individual in an overestimation their abilities.

Research by Gervais and Goldstein’s in 2003 found that a two-player team consisting of one overconfident and one more rational person outperforms a team consisting of two rational people.

This is because overconfidence enhances effort levels – over confident people try harder.

It seems that over-confidence probably accounts for the ultimate success of some serial entrepreneurs.

There is  evidence that  the earlier failed ventures provide valuable resources for entrepreneurs’ future use,. Even though entrepreneurs may be unable to explain why their performance has improved, they will be acutely aware of it and may use it to better calibrate their likelihood of future success. Being highly confident in their abilities keeps them trying and learning from their experience, until eventually they succeed.

It may even be that the prosperity of some societies reflects a culture that allows more confident individuals and entrepreneurs to undertake more challenging and risky tasks with greater conviction. Survivors set up new businesses, achieve technology breakthroughs, develop new drugs, initiate and articulate novel ideas and theories and so on.

But in societies where people are more preoccupied with establishing when and how they could be wrong, they become more timid, indecisive and achieve less  (Brockner et al., 2004; Kahneman and Lovallo, 1993).

Higher confidence appears to increase the odds of success from creating wealth to saving jobs and lives.

But of course over-confidence does carry risks, as recent behaviour by the Banks has demonstrated.  It is always worth keeping in mind Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus whose arrogance led him to sign a deal with the devil and lead of course to his ultimate damnation. However much you believe in your own ability, touching base with reality and caring about how the rest of the world is getting on can never be wrong!

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .

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