Why Overconfidence Bias is Limiting Your Success. And How to Stop It.

We’re Rarely as Good as We Think We Are.

We’re All at Risk of Hughes’s Failures

“There is nothing like success to blind one to the possibility of failure.” — Roger Lowenstein, When Genius Failed

Howard Hughes was a mechanical genius. He was a brave and talented pilot. And he had a strong sense of vision concerning both the film industry and the future of aviation.

“Most of us believe we are better performers, more honest and intelligent, have a better future, have a happier marriage, are less vulnerable than the average person, etc. But we can’t all be better than average.”

We all want to feel important, see ourselves as valuable, and have some specialized area of expertise. These are deep needs inherent in all of us.

Generally, it is considered a weakness and a sign of vulnerability for clinicians to appear unsure. Confidence is valued over uncertainty and there is a prevailing censure against disclosing uncertainty to patients.

While Kahneman cites this impact on doctors, it’s easy to translate this mentality to other roles. While we’re quick to advertise an appreciation for rationality and uncertainty, we’re equally quick to offer our trust to those who demonstrate extreme confidence.

Resist the Illusion of Control

“Arrogance is the obstruction of wisdom.” — Bion of Smyma

Ellen Langer, of mindfulness fame and a professor at Harvard, ran a series of experiments testing peoples’ confidence in situations that were completely out of their control.

Remember: You’re Not as Good as You Think You Are

“I am not a self-made man. I got a lot of help,” wrote Arnold Schwarzenegger in the opening to Tools of Titans, reminding us all that he wouldn’t have achieved his success without the help and support of countless others.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Each success brings us closer to overconfidence and the complacency that comes with it. To avoid this fate, we need to wipe the slate clean with each new endeavor.

“Remember: the gods are merciless with those who fly too high on the wings of grandiosity, and they will make you pay the price.”

Thanks, as always, for reading. Feel free to protect against my own overconfidence slide and offer any feedback — I’d love to hear from you. And if you found this helpful, I’d appreciate if you could help me share with more people. Cheers!

Enemy of the Status Quo.

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