Words like “arrogant” are usually used in reference to people who spend time worrying about the whiteness of their teeth, and have their own catchphrase. Hardly the type to look up to and respect. And yet, at one time in our lives, we truly believed we could be anything we wanted to be, could conquer the world, and could do it better than those before us. It was just a matter of time. Arrogance in it’s purest form. And yet, also at our truly happiest and most fulfilled, and making a dent, however small, on the world around us. And then most of us begin to gradually lose that.
For many, this erosion of arrogance can likely be traced to the day you enter the “real world”. Leaving the bubble of confidence and ambition that is college/varsity, you are told by people with more age and experience than yourself that you deserve to be paid less than you expect, at a level lower than you’re capable of, and that you should leave the real stuff to those who know better than you. And that it will take many years for you to join them. Gladwell’s Ten Thousand Hour Rule is liberally cited and quoted in support. And as you start racking up those hours, you start nodding in agreement more. Anything less is attributed to being “Gen Y”; a label that can usually be found next to “disrespectful” and “management problem”.
There’s a reason that corporates are structured to emphasise experience over enthusiasm. For every mention of ‘innovation’ or ‘disruption’, there is one of ‘budget’, ‘projection’, ‘long-term’ or other metaphors of what is, essentially, ‘stability’. And stability doesn’t come from a bunch of driven people who are working on crazy ideas and don’t know better, but rather from experienced experts who have seen it all before and know how to keep the ship sailing straight. And maybe it’s exactly that that’s the problem. The truly disruptive, world-changing innovations - Google, Twitter, Facebook - hell, the fucking aeroplane - have come from that first room of people, not the second.
What arrogance can give you that experience can only take away is a naive confidence in tackling ideas and problems that you have doubtlessly underestimated, and believing that anything you don’t already know, you are perfectly capable of learning as you go. That you can do something better than the person who’s been doing it for years already. That you, as a single individual, are capable of improving the world in some small way. For the most part, you’ll be wrong, but you’ll definitely be wrong if you play it safe.
What we need to be truly successful, then, is perhaps more of that “fuck you”, Gen Y attitude, and less playing it safe and listening to those who know better. A bit more arrogance.