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Confidence vs. Arrogance
Do you think or know that you’re going to win?
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Building businesses is hard, and it feels like the world is out to get you. In order to overcome the armies of naysayers you need a preponderance of confidence, bordering on arrogance. It is no coincidence that many of the most famous entrepreneurs and CEOs of Fortune 100 companies are borderline narcissists. While everyone is telling you ‘no’, you need to continue to respond ‘yes’.
However, it is dangerous to cross the line between confidence and arrogance. Arrogance can make you sloppy and lead to mistakes. You need to be confident enough to believe in yourself when no one else does, but humble enough to realize that you will only succeed if you execute well.
If you’re afraid you are near the edge, take the following quiz and find out if you are Confident or Arrogant:
1. Are you better than your competition?
Arrogant Answer: You think you are better than your competition because you have worked really hard, you like your product a lot more than your competition and imagine your customers must as well. This also applies if you think a great new feature you will release next week will change the market overnight.
Confident Answer: You know you are better than your competition because a majority of your customers tell you that you are, or better yet if your metrics demonstrate it. You have done a full competitive analysis and understand your strengths and weaknesses as well as expected changes in the industry over the next twelve months.
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2. Are your employees are happy?
Arrogant: You think your employees are happy because you are happy and they seem to have fun around the office. You throw office parties and have social events on a regular basis that you enjoy, so they should as well.
Confident: You know your employees are happy because you ask them regularly. You understand why they like working for your company, where they aspire to go in their careers and are doing your best to help all of them achieve their goals. You still have social events, but you ask your team what they like to do instead of just doing what you want.
3. Are your investors are happy with your performance?
Arrogant: You think your investors are happy because your metrics are improving and you are in a hot space. You assume that since they don’t ask many questions during your board meetings that you have already answered them.
Confident: You know your investors are happy because you have asked them about their expectations for your company’s performance and how it relates to their investment strategy. You brief them about important events ahead of board meetings and meet with them individually on a regular basis to get their private feedback.
4. Do you have enough capital to reach your next milestone?
Arrogant: You think you have enough capital because your revenues are going to increase and investors will be excited at the opportunity to invest when you start fundraising in a few months. Besides, you have plenty of money in the bank.
Confident: You know you have enough capital because you understand your cash flow model and have worked out the worst case scenario. Based on your current model, even if things don’t go according to plan, you will have 9 to 12 months of runway left when you start fundraising again.
5. Are you burning out?
Arrogant: You think you are fine because you are not afraid of hard work, eagerly working 20 hour days and weekends for 2 years. You feel so close to breaking through that if you push just a little harder for a little longer, you will get there. You don’t think your team performs as well when you are not around, so you work even harder.
Confident: You know you are fine because you have a support network that helps you understand how you are performing and you ask them regularly. You take regular breaks to decompress and gain perspective, while trusting your team to work in your absence.
So, how did you score? Over the years, I’ve both passed and failed this test many times.
It is easy to lose yourself in the day to day chaos of building your business and in doing so cross the line. It is easier to believe you will win because you are better than to make sure you are executing well enough to win based on your merits. Self-evaluation is a critical skill to develop to make sure you maintain a healthy perspective.
For more on Leadership, see:
This post is an essay I wrote a decade ago, and I continue to revisit regularly to make sure my confidence isn’t turning into arrogance.