Saturday, August 20, 2011

The humble rise; the arrogant fall

'...Though you soar aloft like an eagle...from there I shall cast you down...says the Lord' (Obadiah)
'...and they shall go from strength to strength...' (Psalms) 

Something I've frequently observed - and experienced - at the skate park is that a person who swells with egotism upon landing a difficult trick frequently falls shortly afterward. On the other hand, one who falls quite badly, often gets up and immediately lands a difficult trick. Why does this occur?  

Here are two explanations:

1. An individual who experiences success may become over-confident. As a result, he proceeds to perform tricks with less caution and limited awareness of what he's doing. In contrast, one who has just taken a tumble becomes more keenly aware of what he's doing.

2. One who succeeds at a trick may become arrogant and more self conscious. When he proceeds to perform tricks his self consciousness steals much of his attention and detracts from his ability to focus on his skating. One who's taken a fall, however, may be temporarily humbled, loses interest in himself, and is thus left with more mental space to concentrate on his skating. 

By way of analogy, if you're at the top of a wheel, whichever way the wheel turns it brings you down. If you're at the bottom of the wheel, however, any turn of the wheel lifts you up. The trick is to remain humble in life, for specifically then are you disposed to meet success after success.             

Having said this, I've also observed what seems to be the opposite of the above. Chiefly, when a skater lands a trick, he commonly goes on to land many more tricks in rapid succession. And, when one fails at a trick, especially after numerous attempts, he's rendered incapable of landing even those tricks which he usually lands? There is no contradiction. The issue here relates to confidence, not arrogance. Landing a trick can increase one's confidence level which brings one to commit to landing further tricks. While failing to land a trick can decreases confidence, and brings one to a moderate sense of despair which taxes one's energy levels.  

Confidence is not to be confused with arrogance, nor despair, with humility. In fact, they are opposites. The arrogant person is smug and expects applause for what he's achieved. The confident person, in contrast, feels capable of achieving much, and is motivated to do so. Similarly, the deflated individual feels weak and impotent and is thus impeded from progressing. By contrast, the humble person feels that relative to what he can achieve he's achieved very little. He too is thus inspired to advance.

Both humility and confidence foster growth and progress; both arrogance and despair bring stagnation and stifle progress.   


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