The Underappreciated Virtues of Arrogance PART 2

The first one was popular so here’s some more thoughts

Here’s the first part from yesterday, if you’re just catching up.


The truth is, no one know what they look like to the outside world.

You know when you see video or audio recording of yourself and you think “is that what everyone else sees?” because it feels so weirdly unlike your perception of yourself? Sort of like that.

The second part of that is we tend to try and pretend to be the things we want to be seen as (or things we definitely don’t want to be seen as, like arrogant).

Personally, I feel like people both sling and take the word ‘arrogant’ as an insult disproportionate to what it actually is. People tend to climb over themselves to not be seen in that light, even if they would be the sorts of people who would say ‘yeah, so what?’ to being called racist or something.

There’s a sidetrack into ‘privilege’ here too, but I’m trying to stay on topic.

And so we see people tend to be on the purposefully demure side so as to avoid being even remotely close to the arrogant side, even if in reality they’re very aggressively holding themselves down.

Because we can’t calibrate our internal reality to the objective reality, it’s a balance we can never accurately know, only one we can portray more or less well / usefully for the situation.

All that to say, you have to guess.

And some people assume they’re the worst (demure / true un-confidence) while some people assume they’re the best (narcissism / true arrogance).

Most of us aren’t at one total end or the other, and I don’t want to advocate going full bore arrogant, but I would recommend moving slightly up the spectrum to maximize your life potential.

Sometimes you’re required to guess high, and sometimes low. The troubles I see in friends is that they guess low all the time to be safe and in effect it actually hurts their professional and personal relations.


This is a connection Brandon Lee brought up while we were talking about yesterday’s article and I really like the implications it covers.

(We’re both designer types so naturally those are the sorts of situations we apply this thinking to; you don’t have to be a designer for it to be true when talking about your body of work or lifestyle or confidence levels.)

That same guessing mechanism applies to art and design and work value on the whole. Since we can’t objectively know, we have to make up our own.

The disconnect between our made up values and the objective value of a work is the schism in our self security.

And like the demure spectrum above, we seem to tend to de-value our own work at a painfully aggressive rate. We tend to assume it’s less valuable than it might actually be (especially to clients who can’t make it on their own).

Which comes full circle to what I was writing yesterday about being enthusiastic about your work and other people will be enthusiastic in response to your passion and pride.

Incidentally, this is also how you get people to really follow you: people love to climb onto existing passions. If you’re on fire for something, people notice. People love people who are on fire for things, because there are so few people who are on fire for seemingly much of anything at all.

Which in itself comes full circle to what makes great leadership, and it’s related to confidence (in itself a leader-like quality) but also that value appraisal system being high leads to on-fire people who rock the world.

Okay. Lots of circles closing there, it’s all interconnected.

Long story short: you’re allowed to be in love with the stuff you make.

Not only is it not a bad thing to have pride in your work, it actively makes your work more attractive to others which then feedback loops into confidence.


Most of us internet folk (and anyone who went to public school) are familiar with the term ‘cringe’ as an adjective for someone who thinks they’re cool, but really aren’t (and probably in a dorky way).

The response to cringe is hipster, which is an adjective for someone who intentionally puts on a facade of apathy in an attempt to never look cringey since they never love anything enough to be called out for it.

One is bullying others, the other is bullying yourself.

The whole thing is about vulnerability. It’s really scary to like things because inevitably you’ll have to confront someone else who doesn’t like those things.

Sometimes that’s your own work, sometimes that’s liking a band or show (which seems like even less a reason to get defensive — it’s a third party).

But being on fire for something also means taking flak for those things. That’s why no one is on fire for anything: it’s too risky. Just easier to be apathetic.

So good arrogance is knowing what you like and then actually fully liking it.

Back to that leadership thing: that’s how nerd blogs work. That’s how you get followers for your ultra niche podcast. You just make it and love making it and never stop making it and telling people how much you love that stuff.

Most people won’t care.

Arrogance allows you to work without their support. Eventually you’ll pick up the people who do care, the 1 in a million types, and they will support you.

And with creative works especially, those first ones are going to be cringey. It’s a fact. It’s the Ira Glass Gap. That’s where people give up, they never had the confidence in that thing to push through and over the gap itself.

So they fail.

They give in to those bullies.

They didn’t value their work enough internally to keep making it externally.

So really, my call for confidence is a call for people to keep moving through that, to allow themselves to be vulnerable in order to make the cool things they have inside them to make.

And if you’re not an artist or designer, this still applies: this means belting out your Taylor Swift CD at red lights even when the people beside you notice. It’s living however you want to live, because you have enough support in yourself that you can safely leave the harbors of relying on other people for that.

So go, be self assured. Be confident.

Be a little arrogant. You might find it suits you.

Make the stuff you want. Be the person you want to be.

Like what you read? Give Brennan Letkeman a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.