It Takes Confidence to Become King, but Humility to Stay King

Posted on July 11, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I was talking to a very close friend yesterday who was pretty down, having fallen short of his own professional expectations of himself.  He is an extremely high achieving guy, years ahead of himself in the professional realm, and like many folks in our world, he expects to crush any challenge in his path.  After 4 or 5 months trying to turn a business around, the numbers aren’t what he hoped, and we talked about how to deal with professional disappointment.

Dealing with disappointment and executing both personally and professionally through it, is one of the few skills that I don’t think you can shortcut at a young age.  For the most part, I like to believe that a brilliant 25 year old is capable of performing at the level of a less brilliant 35 year old, but there are some parts of business that require an emotional maturity that may only come with experience and time.

Specifically related to disappointment, what I’m starting to realize is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to never fuck up or fall short.  If you don’t experience any disappointment in your professional pursuits, you are playing it way to safe.

The first time or two that you disappoint with a lot on the line, it feels like the end of the world.  In fact, sometimes the consequences can be quite serious.  Jobs are lost, money is lost, respect is lost, and without the benefit of 10 or 20 years seeing a healthy sample size of disappointments and how they pan out, those consequences are extremely hard to work through.  As I approach the 6th year of my professional life, I think I am getting a little better at dealing with disappointment.  My guess is when I’m 40 I will know exactly how to deal with it.

Disappointment is a part of life, no matter how good you are or how good you will become.  We do our best to prevent it, and hopefully we achieve more than we disappoint, but with disappointment we also develop humility.  It is this humility that allows us not to be shocked by future disappointment.  Without shock, we become better at executing through the bad, and toward achievement.  I’d be interested to hear from older guys/girls, but my sense is great operators learn over the course of their careers how to address disappointment effectively.

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2 Responses to “It Takes Confidence to Become King, but Humility to Stay King”

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there’s a difference between achieving success (tangible, often numbers-based goals) and feeling successful. too often we focus on the former which is unsustainable. we think that if we achieve X, we will then be successful. but when we reach that point, we set a new level of success to reach, all because we haven’t figured out how to *feel* success. I also think the greater culture & work environment greatly influences how we handle disappointment. unfortunately, most companies do not promote fuck ups as part of the natural journey and so people place unnecessary pressure on themselves to be someone that doesn’t exist in real life…

awesome article bloke, love it!

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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