The Ten Evils (Part One)

This was originally one exceptionally long post. I chose to split it into five pieces for readability purposes. I’ll post a segment each day this week.

Recently, I was leafing through a book at the library discussing Japanese martial arts (I believe it was Budo Secrets) when I came upon a sidebar that listed the ten evils that prevent people from improving themselves.

As I read through the list, I couldn’t help but see how each of these evils – or character flaws, as I would perhaps describe them – have held me back in my finances, my career, and my life in different ways.

While thinking about these ten terms, I consulted a dictionary and spent some time reflecting on how each of these has held me back – and can hold you back, too.

(I decided to highlight these ten evils with some wonderful Creative Commons photographs that illustrate each of these traps.)

Insolence
Insolence, by Todd van Goethem

Insolence
Arrogant conduct; insulting, bold behaviour or attitude.

Arrogance and insolence come from a sense that you can’t truly learn or obtain anything of value from this situation. Because of that, you believe the current situation has less value than you do.

If you treat others in a way that indicates to them that they have less value than you, then all you’re doing is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Believing that you’ll get little from this situation and acting that way ensures that you will get much less from this situation than you might have otherwise.

You’ll overlook things. You’ll convince others to not reveal things to you. You’ll walk away from the situation far poorer than you might have otherwise.

A far more useful attitude to have in any situation is an attitude of respectfulness. Every single situation we’re faced with in life has the opportunity to reveal something valuable to us, either directly or by putting pieces in place for future things. That value, in every situation and interaction, deserves respect.

You can achieve this in several ways. First, keep your internal critic in check. If you open up with criticism, the other person is likely to close up on you and you’ll not find much of value in the rest of the conversation (ideas, a job offer, ideas you can learn from and apply in your life, etc.).

Second, if you can’t think of anything to say that isn’t critical, ask a question that’s actually a question and not just a (not really) vieled criticism. Look for things that do have value to you by probing deeper.

Finally, pay attention. There are things of value in every situation if you give it your attention and look for it. Every article I read has some value in it for me, even if it’s something simple like showing me a cultural difference or a perspective difference between myself and someone else. It allows me to see the world through someone else’s eyes and that vision often reveals all kinds of things. That has great value, but an insolent attitude quickly tosses it aside.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, by Keith Allison

Overconfidence
An excessive degree of self-assurance.

Most people are familiar with the decision of the basketball player LeBron James to leave his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and play with a different team that already had two star players (Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh) that were friends of his.

I respected that decision. I can understand the appeal of wanting to associate closely with friends. I can understand the desire to want the highest quality team, because almost all work is on some level a team game. His method of announcing his decision might have been a bit schlocky, but even then, it was just one way of capitalizing on a flood of media interest.

What made me wary of this move was what he did the following night, when he appeared publicly with his new teammates and discussed how they were going to win eight championships. That type of statement, indicating that he believed his team would dominate the league for the next decade, encouraged a lot of people (including myself) to root for any team other than the Heat.

It’s one thing to be confident and say things like “I believe with this team we have assembled, we have an excellent chance of winning the title this year if we put together some hard work and come together as a team.” It’s an entirely different thing to claim you’re going to win eight titles.

The result of this is that this team spent the entire year receiving an extremely negative response almost everywhere they went and, when the season ended, it was not their team holding up the title.

It’s good to be internally confident and have a sense that we can take on life’s challenges. It’s sometimes good to even be somewhat externally confident and willing to step up to the plate in a challenging situation.

It’s never good to over-promise and under-deliver, particularly when your promise is beyond reason. You lose the respect of those around you and you turn potential friends and opportunities into enemies and lost chances.

The superior attitude here is modesty. Under-promise what you can achieve. Offer respect towards others. Play down your own contributions and play up the contributions of others. Invest your resources in a way that will allow you to cover what you promise with some potential upside if things go well.

Then, when you over-deliver, you look like a true winner, one that can hold the title and still have the respect of those around you.

Modesty and humility are always valuable tactics. They will help you build relationships that will help you in your professional career, your personal life, and your financial life, too.