As I climbed the tank crane’s 10 foot ladder to access the driver’s cab I knew this wasn’t going to be a typical hitchhiking experience..
But I wasn’t aware that I was about to be hijacked by the devil. The devil of self-importance…
The day was warm and I was heading to the south coast via Oxfordshire. Time was on my side, I had the the freedom of the road and all was good with the world. And then this monster truck growled to a halt.
“It’s the biggest vehicle on the road” said the army uniformed driver proudly, his hands spread across the steering wheel much like an angler showing off his catch.
Sitting in my 15 foot high perch I listened intently as he carefully described the vehicle’s weight, length, defence systems and general wonder-powers. Crunching through the gazillion gears we slowly picked up speed.
The enormous windscreen gave me a panoramic view from the cab. And my elevated status meant I could see everything and everybody could see me. Indeed, as we drove along I began to enjoy the attention we received from drivers and passers by.
Popularity felt cool. The humble hitchhiker was yesterday.
The devil of self-importance strikes
But as the transporter hit the outskirts of Banbury, so my fortunes changed.
Before us was a mile-long incline.
Being titanic in tonnage, the vehicle struggled to find any speed. Straining and grunting we crawled laboriously up the hill. Then half way up the driver caught site of two young women walking along the pavement towards the vehicle.
All hell let loose.
Sirens screamed, lights shone, horns bellowed and the driver whooped from his open window. Other passers-by (there were quite a few) were all drawn to the sudden drama. But of course no one could tell that it was only the driver and not me who had seemingly swallowed a bucket-load of Viagra.
I felt a right idiot (elevated in full view) as the two women and then others returned ‘fire’. The driver seemed to enjoy the abuse but nothing stopped his desire to throw more hormonal hand-grenades. Me, I just wanted to be anywhere but in that spotlight. But I had sought the glory and there was no escaping the painful embarrassment. It was then that I realised being on show is a double-edged sword.
Such a trap lurks for the ambitious entrepreneur…
There is no doubt that when you experience business success, you feel good about yourself, and want more of the same. People close to you are also more likely to congratulate rather than question your achievements. However, unchecked, in relatively little time it’s easy to have a skewed view of who you are and what your achievements really mean – especially if events are played out in a public spotlight.
The entrepreneur whose sense of self-importance gets out of hand is in danger of becoming a poor judge of people, situations and perhaps more importantly, their own business. As a consequence, egotistical self interest can take over and/or mask thinking. When wrong issues are prioritised success can quickly lead to financial failure and then watch as ‘friends’ melt away.
In contrast, if you are prepared to show and share your vulnerable side, people are naturally drawn towards you. People like and are positively influenced by those who are prepared to admit their failings and failures. But as a race we are inclined to suppress our vulnerabilities even though such traits make us more attractive to others.
Not mincing words
The hilarious and direct Encyclopedia Dramatica refers to the theory of ‘unwarranted self importance’ by saying “(It) is a disease that gives you the feeling that you are actually worth something despite not having made any contributions to anything at all, or actually making the world a much s******r place, thus making yourself look like a complete douche.”
A little strong perhaps but when peoples’ self-perception ignores the devil of self-importance or is at odds with reality, a quick cut down to size may be good medicine.
Occasionally, I have offered insight to a jumped-up few who do little for the image of the hard-working, value-driven entrepreneur. Expensive suits, a throwing hand for cheap, shiny business cards and a motor mouth, unite people whose behaviour indicates that they are above others. You may be thinking I’ve described the gaggle who all seek fame and fortune on The Apprentice. I must write about that.
For me, even though I was only hitchhiking, I was fortunate enough to be quickly brought down to earth by events. And when considered alongside previous errors and mistakes, was able to recognise an important lesson. Public humiliation, whether it is a small crowd or the media spotlight, is a powerful and lasting force.
Key Learning Points: Entrepreneurs naturally seek new business opportunities and publicity. When success arrives, keep your feet on the ground and remind yourself of the devil of self-importance. Don’t get carried away by the hype & emotional highs. True friends will always respect you.