Pride is a tool – use it wisely.

Fuck the haters, right?

That’s not a bad attitude to have, necessarily.  There are plenty of people in life — family, friends, and strangers — who will tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something.  Don’t fall prey to their negativity.  For reasons why, please refer back to my post, ‘CHASE YOUR FUCKING DREAMS’.

Pride is a complicated thing.  As a dreamer, pride can be what keeps you afloat in tough times, but, left unchecked, can also be what sinks you.

Here’s an extended personal example.

When I was finishing up with the major edits of my first novel, I read a quote by Ira Glass on the art of storytelling:

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I remember being vaguely disappointed with my overall novel at that point in time, despite being happy with parts of it.  However, having sacrificed so many nights and having shed a ludicrous amount of sweat and tears into the work, I refused to admit to what Ira Glass was saying – that the feeling of disappointment I was bottling up inside was indicative of something real, that perhaps I wasn’t an overly harsh critic of my work, that perhaps the work was flawed, genuinely flawed.  Instead, I told myself that my work was perfect, despite the instinctual negative response I felt towards it.  My pride wouldn’t let me accept that I needed to keep pushing forward and improving.  My pride convinced me to rest on (false) laurels.  And so I stagnated.

The truth is that pride is an effective shield against naysayers, and in the beginning I desperately needed one.  As soon as I decided to take writing seriously, a metric fuckton of nays were said: from family, friends, even strangers, all of whom were stupefied by my decision to pursue writing as anything more than a hobby.  They told me I should focus on my law career.  They questioned my talent, my passion, and my determination.  Ultimately, I constructed a tower shield of pride and pushed through their ranks, thinking myself a Spartan a la 300.  

If you don’t develop at least that basic amount of pride — if you don’t believe in yourself enough to deflect the initial onslaught of hate-arrows that will be rained down upon you by naysayers — then you won’t make it to the next battle.  Your dream will die.

KNOW THAT YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH TO TRY.  That is the minimum amount of pride necessary if you’re going to go chase your dream.

Now, where does pride spiral out of control?

When you’ve invested a great deal of time, energy, emotion, and potentially money into chasing your dream and after having fought off the initial wave of naysayers, oftentimes, the only naysayer left is you.  So you’re psychologically isolated and you feel like all you have to show for yourself is this work-product that you’ve created (or are in the middle of creating).  And the worst part about it is that you’re not satisfied with the work-product.  So, you do what most humans do, and you rationalize it to fit a certain narrative that will preserve your sanity.  Typically, we imagine that we have only two narrative choices:

1) This work-product is amazing.  You become too proud.  And when the work-product turns out not to be amazing, and you haven’t made any progress because you were too proud to accept the flaws and improve, then inevitable rejection of your work-product will lead you to quit pursuing your dream.

2) This work-product is terrible.  You abandon your pride.  You quit pursuing your dream.

Notice how whether you become overly prideful or abandon your pride altogether, both narrative paths lead to you quitting.

Wait a second…but if what Ira Glass says is true, and most people are not creating particularly good work at first, then how does anybody succeed?  Who keeps going?  Why would anyone choose not to quit after so many setbacks and failures?

The problem is that we have a tendency to focus too much on the obvious work-product (the album, the book, the film, the program, the business plan, etc.), when the reality is that all that time, energy, emotion, and money that you’ve spent chasing your dream is simultaneously developing a second, less obvious work-product: your skills.  If you can balance your pride, knowing that you are good enough to keep going, but not so good that you can’t improve, then you will be able to modify your techniques and your thinking as time goes on, accept criticism, and improve your skills.  Over time, your skills will develop to an extent where the work-products you create have caught up to your expectations.  That is when success is imminent.

In conclusion, pride is useful for the dreamer, even necessary.  But you must take great care not to let it develop to such an extent that you stagnate.  As always, seek to improve, pursue, and ultimately, to conquer.

3 responses to “Pride is a tool – use it wisely.

  1. Pingback: Nobody Tells This to Beginners | Pixelturf

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