I’ve been reading a lot of biographies recently. Steve Jobs, Einstein, Jeff Bezos, Karl Marx and, most recently, the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (which, if you ask me, should be compulsory material in college regardless of one’s academic major). Franklin’s entire biography is a wonderful read of wisdom and inspiration, but this one paragraph has really stuck with me over the past few days:
“In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”
If I look back, pride has always driven me towards making mistakes. This one time when I was about 21, I was unhappy that my software company was utterly unsexy (notwithstanding that it was profitable and growing), so I decided to become a “media mogul” in Romania. After investing in equipment, production studio, TV presenters and video editing experts, I launched BrainTV, an online TV channel positioned as “TV for smart people”. A year later it was shut down. Looking back, it was nothing but vanity and the desire to be in the spotlight that made me launch BrainTV. In other words, pride. It wasn’t solving any problem and, frankly, we weren’t even that good at it. Lesson learned.
At the same time, whenever I was brave enough to swallow my pride, things worked out so much better. When you’re not doing whatever you’re doing in order for others to see how smart, successful, sexy or creative you are, chances are you’ll actually focus on doing the things that really matter and make a difference. Just don’t be too proud about it.