If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know that there’s a ton of paradoxes in self-development that I discuss.
You have to be strong, yet you have to acknowledge your weaknesses. You have to work hard, yet you have to rest when appropriate. You have to be assertive, yet you have to let success come to you. These are all completely mind-boggling paradoxes for the self-development newbie, who can only think in a one dimensional way.
Today, however, I’d like to explain the most fundamental paradox in all of self-development: be humble, yet proud.
Wolves are fierce animals; they live in small to medium sized packs in the arctic tundra. Food is scarce, sunlight is scarce, and the climate is frigid. They rely on one another to survive, but every pack has its alpha male.
The alpha male is the one who leads the pack. He decides where to hunt for food, where to search for water, and what to do in times of danger. Occasionally, a younger and bolder wolf will try to usurp the alpha male’s throne, and what happens is interesting. At first, the two wolves growl at each other. They snarl, and show off their teeth. They bark and put on an impressive show, trying to intimidate the other wolf.
But then what happens? Do they fight? Well, sometimes. But the majority of the fight is decided DURING this display of dominance. Whichever wolf is the weakest backs down, and saves his life in doing so.
The wolf realizes that he could go on to attack the stronger wolf, but he would most likely die. Why not simply acknowledge his inferiority and learn from the alpha male wolf by following him? This is the true meaning of be humble like a wolf.
You must be able to acknowledge when other men are greater than you at something, and follow them. Without the humility to do so, you will become arrogant, and you will not go far.
Lions, on the other hand, are a completely different animal (no pun intended). Lions live in a “pride,” which is aptly named. This pride consists of one alpha male, and 5-6 females. Sometimes, there are two males in a pride, known as a coalition, but this is very rare.
Male lions HATE sharing their women with other male lions. Most of them would rather die than share a pride with another male. Lions are so proud that they’ll often fight a stronger male, KNOWING that he’s stronger and that they’ll likely die.
When an alpha male lion is sitting with his 6 females, and another male lion roams into sight, what do you think he does? He fucking kills it.
This is the power of pride. It compels you to take decisive action. It compels you to assert yourself. It holds you to certain standards.
Interestingly enough, however, you need BOTH the pride of a lion, and the humility of a wolf to make it big.
Humility, in essence, is what allows you to improve by focusing on others. It allows you to see when others know more than you, and when you should metaphorically bow your head to them (as the wolf does to the stronger wolf).
Do not mistake humility for a lack of self-esteem.
They are not the same. A lack of self-esteem means that you’re down on yourself; you don’t believe you’re “worth it,” or you dislike yourself. Humility, however, is acknowledging that in certain situations, you may be wrong and it may be worthwhile to listen to others.
Never forget this difference. A lot of people will tell you that humility is the same thing as being a coward, or that humility is the same thing as having low self-esteem, but it’s not. And, if you pay attention, you’ll discover that usually the people who tell you that are pretty damn arrogant themselves.
If you’re a follower of my blog, you’re likely familiar with the two polar opposites Jon and Jerry. Jerry is typically the one who’s fucking up big time. Jon is the one who has his shit together.
So, let’s use an example to clarify—in this situation, let’s say that both Jon and Jerry are trying to start a business. Let’s say it’s a company that sells coffee.
Jerry is very arrogant; he doesn’t think that he can learn from those before him. He doesn’t bother contacting other men who have coffee businesses to learn from them. He doesn’t study their businesses, he doesn’t learn from their mistakes…in fact, he is hardly even aware that they exist. “Who the fuck are they?” Jerry thinks. “I know better. I’ll be a millionaire in no time.”
Jon, however, sends out emails to 10 different small coffee companies. He asks all of them for advice, and if they could potentially do business. Jon even offers to work for free for a CEO if he’ll teach him what he knows. Jon invests in himself and buys online seminars on startups, books on how to scale a company, and more.
“Wow, I’m learning so much I never knew!” thinks Jon. “I think that I know enough to get started now…let’s follow the plan that this business course laid out.” Jon is humble enough to admit he doesn’t know anything about the coffee business (or business at all), yet Jerry thinks he knows everything.
Jerry decides to contact a bulk supplier of coffee beans in Brazil; he places an order for $15,000 thinking that buying in bulk is great, since he’ll get a good deal. Jon decides to only spend $100 on coffee, even though the shipping is $200. “I know I’m losing money at first, but just like the course said, you want to make sure it’s a good source before you buy in bulk.”
When Jerry’s coffee comes in, it’s fucking garbage. It’s old, dried out, and there’s even mold on some of the beans. “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BULLSHIT,” Jerry thinks. He calls the company right away with a vengeance. He’s angry that they fucked him over (rightfully so), but it never even occurs to him that maybe he should’ve been more careful. The coffee exporting company never responds, and Jerry’s out $15,000.
Jon on the other hand, receives his shipment, and doesn’t like it. “Hmm…this is garbage. Maybe I should place a few more orders?” He places several more orders, and finally finds a coffee distributor he likes. He then decides to follow the advice on scaling a business that was given to him, and instead of suddenly buying in massive bulk with a company he doesn’t trust 100% yet, he buys $1,000 worth of coffee beans.
He likes what he sees, so he sells a few bags. Then he buys $2,000 worth, and sells that. Then $5,000 then $15,000 then $25,000 and eventually $100,000.
Jon ends up selling his coffee business to a venture capitalist, netting a profit of 3 million. Jerry is still butthurt that he got gypped by a coffee company.
When Jerry decides to learn game, what does he do? Does he learn from the people that came before him who have experience? Fuck no. “I know what women want! Lemme just put on my Rolex watch and go pull bitches!” he thinks.
He goes home night after night without a girl. “Fucking whores! They only want tall, jacked, handsome men! WHAT—I’m not GOOD ENOUGH?!” Jerry’s butthurtness prevents him from going out more, and he dies a virgin.
Jon, on the other hand, is able to acknowledge that his game isn’t perfect. He sees that he could use some help. So before he goes out, he starts learning from those who came before him. He learns from guys like me, RSD, Good Looking Loser, or maybe even oldschool PUA’s like Mystery or Neil Strauss (which I recommend, if only to get a different perspective).
Then, when he goes out, he gets a little bit of attraction. Maybe it isn’t much—but it’s enough to keep him going! Because he’s humble, he didn’t expect MASSIVE results immediately. He knew he wasn’t that good with girls, so he didn’t expect much. Over time, because he’s constantly learning and growing (due to his humility), he starts becoming the desire of every woman.
He how to pass shit tests, how to screen better, how to talk to girls when you don’t know what to say, and how to flirt really well. Eventually, because of his humility and willingness to learn, he has a happy life with tons of girls, and eventually settles down with one.
Whenever there is a team involved, humility is extremely paramount to cooperation. If one person is unable to recognize that others are better in certain areas than him, the team will fail.
For example, say that a team is trying to launch a product (again, let’s choose coffee as an example). We have the marketing guy, the logistics guy, the finance guy, and Jerry (the branding guy). Now say that they’re all trying to do their own jobs, and the Jerry constantly interrupts them. “Umm, I think the finances would be better if you did this.”
“Umm, the marketing would be way better if you did this.” And so on and so forth. Eventually, they’re going to dislike Jerry; they won’t want to work with him, and all of their performances will suffer.
If, however, the team has humility, cohesion will be at its peak. Say that, this time, Jon is the branding guy. Jon will let everyone do their jobs, and work synergistically. Even if one of the other guys tells Jon that it’d be better to do it “this way,” he’ll actually consider it.
Jon won’t just viscerally reject it; he’ll actually take a moment to wonder if “this way” really would be better. Eventually, due to humility in the team (and in Jon), they’ll all succeed and launch a successful product.
While you definitely need humility to succeed, you also need its counterpart: pride. Pride is your ability to hold yourself to certain standards. It’s when you say: “No. I’m better than this.” It’s when you learn how to set boundaries to protect your life from bullshit people and bullshit influences.
Pride is holding yourself accountable, it’s not taking the easy way out. It’s standing up for yourself and not being afraid to confront others. Pride is not the same as arrogance. Arrogance isn’t based in reality; it’s a narcissistic, egotistical delusion that you’re better than everyone else at everything. Pride is the opposite: it’s actually looking at reality for what it is, and realizing where you’re better than others.
The weak often mistake pride for ignorance, because they have no standards. They assume that when someone is confident, and has high standards, that they’re arrogant, when they’re really just proud. Does this seem contradictory to humility? It’s not. It’s a paradox, which is a seeming contradiction, but it is not a contradiction. Still confused? Read on.
Let’s go back to our coffee example. Jon is ordering several small batches for the first time, and Jerry just got $15,000 worth of crappy coffee. Jerry, although upset, decides: “Ehhh, fuck it. I’ll just sell it anyways, it doesn’t matter.” Jon, on the other hand, upon receiving his first bad batch of coffee says: “I can’t sell this. It’s absolute garbage, and I’m better than that.”
Jerry launches a successful marketing campaign (surprisingly) and manages to sell all of his coffee. All $15,000 worth of shitty coffee. “Hahaha, these dummies,” he thinks. “I’ll sell them some more!” So he buys $50,000 worth of coffee this time, and you know what? Not a single person buys it. They remember that his coffee was complete trash and don’t want his business. Now, due to arrogance (NOT the same as pride), Jerry is out $50,000.
Jon, on the other hand, due to pride, searches for more coffee to sell. He finally finds an exporter whose coffee he loves, and decides to sell it—and because Jon has pride and held his coffee to a certain standard, others like it; they want more, because it tastes really good. So eventually Jon’s business takes off. All because he had enough pride to hold himself to a certain standard.
Now let’s say that Jon gets a girlfriend, and so does Jerry (again, surprisingly). Jerry doesn’t have any pride. He doesn’t hold himself (or others) to certain standards, and he certainly doesn’t have a backbone. Jon, on the other hand, does.
So when Jon’s girlfriend moves in, what does he expect? He expects her to cook, to clean, and not to play stupid games (like emotional manipulation or “rationing” sex). So, likewise, she follows his lead. Women want you to be the leader, and if you can’t do this, they’ll sense it and walk all over you.
Every morning, Jon wakes up and has his favorite breakfast dish made for him: four fried eggs, six strips of grass-fed bacon, and a healthy greens shake. Complete with his high quality bodybuilding multivitamins and coffee laid out for him.
If his girlfriend starts to test him and play games, he calls her out on it real quick. Consequently, she continues to live up to his expectations, and he lets her live at his place. Because Jon’s girlfriend is really sweet and takes the time to cook, clean, and whatever, Jon is nice in return—he takes her out to movies, nice restaurants, and on vacations. In other words, they have a functional relationship.
Now, let’s take Jerry on the other hand. Say that his girlfriend moves in to an apartment that he’s paying for, but he doesn’t have high standards. She starts to only have sex with him when he does the dishes or something stupid like that. She plays emotional mind games that waste his time and drain him of his energy.
And because he doesn’t have the pride to hold him and her to high standards, he doesn’t call her out on it. He continues to suffer, however, because he doesn’t have the knowledge needed to find another girlfriend. Oh, Jerry. Poor, poor, Jerry.
When a team has a certain level of pride, something magical happens. It’s what led to the birth of Apple, of Microsoft, of Tesla, of SpaceX, and more great companies that revolutionized the world. Say that, again, we have a team of four: the marketing guy, the finance guy, the logistics guy, and Jerry.
Jerry, because he doesn’t take pride in his work, does a poor job. When others do a poor job, he doesn’t call them out on it. He just agrees to get along. Consequently, their work sucks shit, and they never get their product off the ground (or they do, but lose their entire investment, which is arguably even worse).
Jon, on the other hand, has some fucking pride.
He does his work exceptionally well, because he realizes that it’s a reflection of himself—but when someone in the team starts slacking, he calls them out on it. “Come on man, we’re better than this.” Slowly, people start to admire Jon’s pride in his work, and they follow his lead. Eventually, because of Jon’s leadership and pride, the team launches a successful product that in turn makes them millions.
Do you see now why you need both pride AND humility? With too much humility, you’ll never start experimenting for yourself and trusting your own gut. You’ll perpetually think that others know more than you, rather than taking a leap of faith and trusting yourself. With too much pride, you’ll never learn anything. You’ll grow arrogant, and will never become a better person.
The rare man who has both pride and humility, will conquer the world, one step at a time—his pride will hold him to higher standards, and his humility will ensure his constant learning and growth.
I hope you guys enjoyed the article—I really like discussing these paradoxes of self-development, so let me know if you want more. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, be sure to leave a remark down below. As always, I’ll see you next time.
Jon Anthony is a dating coach, fitness expert, and self-improvement guru. He dropped out of college to start Masculine Development in 2015, and has since been self-employed, helping men across the world achieve their best lives. You can best reach him on social media, or via email for questions.
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