Entrepreneurs have to have a high degree of arrogance and perhaps the reason why brash, loud, arrogant are some of the popular adjectives when describing them. One of the things I’ve learnt is that you have to possess a certain degree of arrogance to let people know you mean business. Now before you start shaking your head in disagreement and disbelief, let me try and define what I mean by entrepreneurial arrogance.
Arrogance is confidence on crack. There’s a fine line when confidence turns into arrogance and startups straddle that line a lot. Confidence is an function of training, a fundamental belief that you know what needs to get done because you have the right tools and training to do so. Arrogance on the other hand, is confidence in spite of training. It is the belief that you can meet the problem head-on and solve it regardless of sparse your intellectual and financial arsenal maybe. It is the conviction that you are no way less than the other guy who claims to have the solution to the problem you’re trying to solve but won’t show you how.
Arrogance is a also a good way to compensate for size. When at IBM, you had to be humble because you were compensating for being a 800 lb gorilla with an huge arsenal of resources so even the slightest stench of arrogance and you’d put off your customers. In other words you had to speak softly because of the big stick you were inadvertently carrying. However, as a startup you don’t have the same brand recognition, and hence the person on the other side of the table can easily mistake your humility for a lack of confidence. This is both contagious and deadly and must be avoided at all costs.
Keep in mind, that I’m not giving a blank check to arrogance. The willingness to learn from our mistakes and listen to our customers requires a high degree of humility. However, when you’re in a startup you deal with so much C.R.A.P (Crticism, Rejection, Assh*les, Pressure), that just being confident doesn’t cut it. You have to be arrogant enough to shrug it all off and continue to dance to your own music, no matter how off-beat it may sound.
Now, the problem is you can’t be selective with arrogance and perhaps the reason why entrepreneurs get the reputation they have. You cannot turn it on and off at will and more often than not end up overdoing it before you find the balance. I don’t think I have, so if you do find my head is up my butt, do let me know…..nicely.
Quote of the Day
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.