Showing posts with label Hubris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hubris. Show all posts

July 6, 2019

Arrogance And A Messy Head

While sometimes children behave like "know-it-alls"...

Often an attempt to showcase what they've learned or to build their self-confidence. Sometimes, it's also to bully others.  

More unusual though is to find an adult that thinks and actually says they know it all. 

But sure enough, I ran into someone who told me (about technology):
"I know everything!"

And they said it with a straight face. 

Literally, they told me how they came up through the ranks and knew EVERYTHING with emphasis!

Moreover, they told me that if I didn't know something, I should go ahead and ask them because they would most definitely know it.

So I respect all people and certainly admire those who are knowledgable and talented in their fields. 

But something felt very wrong about an adult who feels that they have to go around bragging about the depth of their knowledge--and that their knowledge is apparently infinite (at least that's what they espoused). 

I wondered to myself--is the person arrogant and a big mouth or the opposite--lacking in self confidence and therefore needing to boast and show off to compensate for their inadequacies?

When they were talking, it seemed like their head was getting so big and full of themself that it would just explode!

Most adults with emotional intelligence realize how little they know, and the older they get the more they realize that they don't know in life. 

Especially, people of faith recognize that G-d is all-knowing and all-powerful, and we are but mere "flesh and blood" and truly just a speck of dust in the universe.

So truly smart people are humble and they look to learn from others, rather than preach and teach in a monologue of hubris.

Like many people that get too big for the britches, G-d usually brings them back down to Earth and their head to size.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 18, 2017

The Greatest Failure of Leadership

So perhaps the most damaging trait of failed leadership is hubris.


When a leaders exhibits arrogance--bullies and degrades others, especially underlings--then that absolutely destroys the moral fiber of and the employee engagement in the organization.


No, it's not the salary and benefits, or recognition, or position title, or even the grandness of the mission of the organization itself--although they are all important--but rather, the key ingredient to employee satisfaction is the common sense fundamental of how we treat our people.


People rising or elevated in the organization frequently forget the humble beginnings from whence they and their families likely began.


They see their honor and fat pay check and power--and they start to perhaps think of themselves as (close to) G-d Almighty, Him/Herself.


But it is not their position that makes them in the image of G-d, but how they care for and treat others.


If they shepherd their flocks meekly and with empathy and kindness to all then they emulate G-d, the creator and sustainer.


But when it goes to their heads and they become fat and haughty with themselves and are above everyone and care not for the basic dignity and respect of each individual in their steward then G-d sees and G-d hears the cry of the oppressed, and the mighty will surely fall and hard.


As it says in Isaiah 13:11:

I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.


Those who are blessed by G-d with position, money, and power--their challenge is to be gracious and giving with it. 


When they "laud it" over others and when they think that they are truly "all that"--rest assured that G-d does not let any tree grow or tower (of Babel) build into the Heavens themselves. 


Empathy, kindness, graciousness, and generosity--that is true leadership--and that is when employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity will bear the mark of the meek and the truly great person and leader. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 28, 2016

Wiping The Smug

How you ever seen someone with that unbelievable smug look on their face? 

They are almost glowing in hubris and elitism.

They have gotten away with something and they know it and think they are above earth and Heaven.

Feeling better, smarter, and mightier than everyone else around them. 

They have built a fortress of minions, money, and power. 

And nothing, they think, can bring them back to Earth. 

Through deals, cunning, intimidation, and even elimination of their rivals, they survive and thrive growing stronger with every kill. 

High and mighty, but G-d sees all. 

Arrogant and corrupt, but G-d forgets none. 

All humankind is connected and one.

As one sits in the dust of the feet of another. 

The wheel of life turns, and the roles reverse. 

The next person has the chance to act different and better.

To mend their soul and humbly influence others for the good. 

No one should be smug, because everyone serves. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 29, 2015

Russia Outwits Us Again x 4

You can't build the world from the backseat. 

Either we're in it or we're not. 

Instead, Russia has jumped into the driver's seat, and we're not coming out looking too good on the world stage. 

- In 2013 they took in and continue to shelter Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who ran to Hong Kong after allegedly leaking oodles of NSA classified information.

- In 2014, Russia conducted a blitzkrieg and took Crimea from sovereign Ukraine (giving it a strategic port in the Black Sea), and are conducting a separatist war in the eastern part of the country. 

- In 2015, Russia enters the Syrian crisis and allies themselves with dictator, Bashar Al Assad (who has used chemical weapons on his own people), as well as with Iran and Iraq.

- Additionally, Russia is taking the lead role in the oil and mineral rich Arctic bolstering their presence and militarizing, including building new ice-breakers (while our Coast Guard has only one operational). 

Some people have said mockingly, "Well what should we do, start a war with Russia?"

And the answer is an unequivocal, no. 

But I assume they don't want to start a war with the U.S. either. 

Rather, this is the Cold War Part II, where we are fighting by proxy in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Arctic.

If we want the world to be modeled on freedom, human rights, and democracy then we need to be able to stand up for those things that are important to us.

Yes, we have to care about what's going on here at home too, but we don't live in a bubble, although surrounded by oceans on the east and west coast, we can sometimes easily feel that way. 

It's a big world--and it takes tremendous leadership to bring it along a good and noble path.

The leadership role will not stay vacant for long...it can be us if we want it, or else you might as well flip a coin on either Russia or China. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 2, 2015

You Can Always Go, Downtown!

This was fascinating to me at work this week...

I learned how people perceive who sits where and what it means to them.

They even come up with naming conventions for it.

So where (some) of the managers sit, that's called "The White House."

If you turn around and go towards the other end of the building, that's called, "downtown."

And crossing the hallway, past the elevators, that is called, "across the bridge,"

Clearly, the culture of each of these areas within the very same building can be completely different--some may be upbeat, friendly, and productive, and others not so much so or even the opposite with the folks running and screaming, "Get me outta here!"

The message...where people sit and even who sits next to whom is a big deal. 

Where you sit can indicate power, alliances, what is getting done, and at the other extreme who is on "the outs."

Like in the movie, Office Space,  when the guy with the red stapler is moved with his desk and all into the caverns of the building--basically to rot because management didn't quite like him. 

Often people who are in disfavor aren't fired, they are simply put in cherem--excommunicated--and to die a slow and painful career and emotional death. 

On the other hand, those who are the shining stars of the organization get moved to a higher floor, with a better view, possibly a corner office, and near the boss--aha, you're needed!

At work, I suggested a little enterprise architecture challenge to look at the three office areas: White House, Downtown, and Across the Bridge and to define the culture of these--what they are and also what do we want them to be for the people and how can we change to get there. 

No one should feel alienated, "less than" (as human beings), or put out to pasture (if they can be and want to be salvaged). 

The messages that are sent to people by assigning fancy titles, fatter paychecks, providing bigger and more luxuriously adorned offices is a form of performance management (reward and punishment)--but remember that those downtown or across the bridge--who may feel underutilized and not valued in the organization, may become the aggrieved marauding mobs that want to take the proverbial "kings head."

While there are differences in where people are at in their careers and where they sit, generally-speaking advancement and mobility should always be based clearly on fairness, equal opportunity, and respect and dignity for all people regardless of race, color, religion, sex, etc. No one should be sitting in the leaky basement!

Also, sometimes it really is just "the luck of the draw" where people end up--truly--where G-d provides the right opportunity, you have the right skill set, those involved have the right personalities "to click", and it's at the right time "to work out.".

What was also interesting about this to me is that one's persons White House is another person's downtown or across the bridge--it's all relative and we are all part of the carnivorous food chain. 

Just to share something personal for me at work is that one thing that I do when setting up a meeting is that I never put in the meeting notice that the location is my office, but rather, I put it down as "my space," because some people don't have offices, but rather cubes, and I don't want to make anyone feel bad. 

In the end, it's all G-d's space!  ;-) 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 17, 2015

From Stability Comes Instability

I remember hearing the phrase (not sure from where), "everything and the opposite."

I think it refers to how within each thing in life are elements of the exact contrary and opposing force. 

Similar to the interactions of ying and yang, the world is an interplay of opposites--males and females, black and white, fire and water, ebb and flow, good and bad, optimism and pessimism, and so on. 

Everything has a point and it's counterpoint.

It was interesting to me to see this concept expressed in terms of the financial markets (Wall Street Journal), where bull and bear contend in terms of our finances.

But what was even more fascinating was the notion from the economist, Hyman Minsky, who noted that the very dynamic between stability and instability was inherent within itself.

So for example, Minsky posits that a stable economic market leads to it's very opposite, instability.

This happens because stability "leads to optimism, optimism leads to excessive risk-taking, and excessive risk-taking leads to instability" (and I imagine this works in reverse as well with instability-pessimism, retrenchment and limiting risk to stability once again).

Thus, success and hubris breeds failure, and similarly failure and repetitive trial and error/hard work results in success.

It is the interflow between ying and yang, the cycle of life, life and death (and rebirth), the seasons come and go, boom and bust, and ever other swinging of the pendulum being polar opposites that we experience. 

The article in the Journal is called "Don't Fear The Bear Market," I suppose because we can take comfort that what follows the bear is another bull. 

But the title sort of minimizes the corollary--Don't (overly) rejoice in the bull--because you know what comes next.

Go cautiously and humbly through life's swings.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 17, 2014

You're Not All That

So they say that all sin is rooted in arrogance. 

We get too big for our britches and think we can do whatever we want including stepping on others and defying our maker. 

An interesting article in Harvard Business Review reminds us to beware of narcissism and hubris. 

Narcissism is a character disorder where because of feelings of inadequancy from childhood, people have to self-promote themselves every which way toSunday--they are "insufferably self-centered."

Hubris is a reactive disorder where due to past success and accolades from others, we become overconfidant, until the luck changes "toppling from their pedestals" and shrinking their ego back down to size."

I like the reminders from HBR cautioning about these:

- "Have more than thou showest; speak less than thou knowest." - Shakespear

- "Humble pie should be the only dessert served."

It's one thing to have decent self-esteem anchored in your knowing right from wrong and acting accordingly, and it's another to think and act like you have all the answers--none of us do. 

If your showing it off, it's likely a turn off. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Jampa)
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October 25, 2013

Rock Into Space

Very excited by news in the Wall Street Journal on advances for Space Tourism. 

Paragon Space Development Corp is developing a space helium-filled balloon to take us into the wild-blue (and black) yonder. 

The balloon will be as wide as a football field.

It will transport 8 people to an altitude of 18 miles, high enough to move around for about 6 hours and get a "panoramic view of the globe without having to wear space suits of don oxygen masks."

The cost will be about $75,000 per person--which seems almost doable for middle class folks who want the ultimate travel experience. 

In contrast, Virgin Galactic will rocket passengers 60 miles high where customers can experience weightlessness for about $250,000. 

Other ventures are developing offerings of trips to the International Space Station, an orbiting hotel, and even the moon. 

I think it would be so awesome to experience space travel and see G-d's creations in a whole new perspective-filled way. 

It's amazing, we are so small in the realm of things, yet we fallaciously think we are so big. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 12, 2013

The Money Pit

So I'm visiting this absolutely delectable Italian bakery in fancy-schmancy Las Olas.

The Sicilian pizza by the way is amazing.

We are there for a while enjoying the food, conversation, and ambiance. 

My wife offers to take a picture of me in this great place. 

The lady behind the counter is so nice and let's me join her behind the counter for a moment.

In comes an obviously wealthy customer and as he sees me going to take a quick photo, he makes a big "Hmmmmm!"

The lady graciously says "Just one moment sir."

And irritably waiting for just this brief moment, he blurts out, "I'm the customer and my money comes first!"

When he said this, another lady in line made a huge shocked face--as did we all.

It is incredible how some people's money goes to their head and they don't realize it all comes from G-d and can just as quickly be taken away.

Wealth, health, our loved ones, and happiness--they are ephemeral and we should be ever grateful for them for as long as we have them.

Being arrogant and thinking we are better than the next guy--that we are somehow more deserving or above it all--is a huge fallacy and G-d sees all. 

Maybe this rich guy's money comes first to him, but I imagined the Master Of The Universe hearing these words and having the last eternal laugh. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 30, 2012

Plenty Of Food For All

I remember as a teenager visiting, on occasion, the Catskill Mountain hotels for the holidays and watching not only the enormous amounts that people seemed to order and eat, but also the huge amounts that simply went uneaten and was discarded.

Taste from this dish...don't like it, throw it out. Try that food...but your not in love with it either, into the trash as well. Like a smorgasbord or food orgy to end all others. 

Honestly, the waste from such hubris is disgusting especially with world hunger unbelievably still topping 925 million people or 1 in 7 worldwide. 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (21 December 2012) reports that in India alone villagers average only about 2,000 calories a day--when less than 2,400 qualifies for government food aid. And "half of all children younger than three years old in India weight too little for their age; [and] 8 in 10 are anemic" (i.e. do not have enough healthy red blood cells).

Despite the mass poverty and corruption hindering people getting enough healthy food around the world, BBC News (30 November 2012) cites incredible statistics that "the average American family throws away 40% of the food they purchase--which adds up to $165 billion annually." 

However, not all the food being thrown out is because of people acting like--I'll just say it--like pigs, but because if not eaten right away, food spoils.

Food spoliage affects the taste, smell, and appearance of food and the pathogens involved can make people sick. So some food--not fresh anymore--really needs to get discarded. 

Now Texas Tech University has invented MicroZap a microwave technology that functions to pasteurize food so it stays fresh longer.

For example, MicroZap can kill mold spores in bread in about 10 seconds. Thus, normal bread which goes moldy after 10 days, can stay fresh instead for 60 days--and at the "same mold content as it had when it came out of the oven."

MicroZap can also be used on eggs and meat to improve food safety by killing E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. 

An additional benefit to MicroZap is that food manufacturers may not need all the additives and preservatives that get mixed in, as well as the other chemicals used to mask the taste of them. 

Further uses for MicroZap include the washing and drying of clothes in hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers, and fitness centers to sterilize them and even kill superbug MRSA (in excess of 99.999%).

The application of microwave technology to food safety and to sterilizing laundry is exciting not only from the perspective of reducing illness and infection, but also in terms of cutting waste and reducing hunger and malnutrition. 

If we can cost-effectively deploy this technology to improve safety and reduce waste, and then redistribute food to those in genuine need, we can feed the world with the food we already have at our fingertips--and there can be plenty of bread for everyone. ;-)

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal) 

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April 2, 2012

Mind Readers and The Psychology of Excess

Animal_house
Seeing a number of senior officials in the last year "ousted," I find it sort of scary the risks and travails that executive leadership can entail.

There are so many good, hardworking people at GSA making progress for the Government in terms of property management, contract management, fleet management, and more, that it was a huge shock to many today, when GSA leadership including the Administrator, were ousted for what White House Chief of Staff called "excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars." 

This at a time when the nation is struggling to reduce the national deficit now at $15.6 trillion and avoid another debt ratings cut from the three credit report agencies that would potentially drive interest up and cause even more damage to the nation's economy.

Of course, the GSA is not the only example, just last year, we had the unfortunate "muffin mini-scandal" as reported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 September 2011), where the Government was alleged to have paid $16.80 apiece for muffins.

What causes this psychology of excess where taxpayers end up footing the bill for extravagant items and events? 

1) Hubris--Are there people who feel they are so high and mighty, they just have all the trimmings of office coming to them and theirs?

2) Neglect--Do some executives rise too far and fast, and maybe things get out of control?

3) Misguided--Is it possible that some may actually really think that hiring a mind reader on the taxpayer dime is a good idea?

4) Accident--At times, oversights, mistakes, and accidents happen, and while we may prefer they didn't, they are a learning opportunities.

5) All of the above--Perhaps it is some combination of all the prior four?

It reminds me of something my father taught me that "G-d does not let any flower grow into the sky."

This means that no matter how good we are or how far we go in our careers and in life, we remain mortal and infirm, and subject to human imperfections. 

That's why it's never a good idea to tout your own infallibility.  Just Last Thursday, the GSA Administrator, as reported by Government Executive Magazine, told a conference "Why us? Because we're the expert shoppers. We're the folks you want on your team when budgets are tight, you're making purchases, and there's no room for error..."

Obviously, I assume there was no intent to brag, but we all say things like this at one time or another, and it's good to reflect and stop ourselves from going too far. 

This is not about the GSA or any other agency or organization in particular, but rather a lesson in humility for all of us. 

This unfortunate incident should not obscure the good work, done every day, at all levels, by every Federal agency.  

(Source Photo: here)

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December 19, 2009

How $26 Can Buy You A Billion-Dollar Surveillance System

If $26 software can give our enemies on the ground access to our drone feeds and cyber warfare can inflict indefinite havoc on our critical infrastructure, we need to rethink what technological superiority means and how we keep it.

No defense system is foolproof. That’s why we build redundancy into the system and layer our defenses with “defense in depth,” so that just because the enemy infiltrates one layer, doesn’t mean that our defenses are laid bare.

When in fact, we become aware that our systems have been compromised, it is only responsible for us to re-secure them, bolster them with additional defenses, or take those systems out of commission.

It was shocking to learn this week in multiple reports in the Wall Street Journal that our UAV drones and their surveillance systems that have been so critical in our fight against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan were compromised, and the feeds intercepted by $25.95 software sold over the Internet. These feeds were found on the laptops of the very militants we were fighting against. Reportedly, we knew about this vulnerability ever since the war in Bosnia.

It is incredible to imagine our massive multi-billion dollar defense investments and technological know-how being upended by some commercial-off-the-shelf software bought online for the price of a family dinner at McDonalds. But what makes it even worse is that we knew for nearly two decades that the enemy had compromised our systems, yet we did not fix the problem.

A number of reasons have been circulated about why the necessary encryption was not added to the drones, as follows:

- It would have resulted in an increase in cost to the development and deployment of the systems.

- There would be a detriment to our being able to quickly share surveillance information within the U.S. military and with allies.

- There was immediate battlefield need for the drones because of the immediate concern about roadside bombs and therefore there was apparently no time to address this issue.

Based on the above, one may possibly be able to understand why the Joint Chiefs “largely dismissed” the need to repair the drones’ security flaw. However, it also seems that they were overconfident. For any “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” contestant can tell you that if the enemy can see and hear what we see and hear, then they can take action to subvert our military and intelligence resources, and the critical element of surprise is gone—the mission is compromised.

Of course as civilians we are not privy to all the information that our leaders have. And one can say that if all you have are compromised drones, then those are what you must use. Nevertheless, officials interviewed by the Journal point to the hubris that influenced the decision in this situation – as the report states:

“The Pentagon assumed that local adversaries [in Iraq and Afghanistan] wouldn’t know how to exploit” the vulnerability. So, the result was that we kept building and deploying the same vulnerable systems, over a long period of time!

This is not the first time that we have both been overconfident in our technological superiority and underestimated competitors and opponents in foreign countries—with disastrous results. There are the human tragedies of Pearl Harbor and 9/11, to name just two. And then there are the economic challenges of global competition, such as in the automobile industry and overseas manufacturing in general.

And if some terrorist cells on the run can so clearly compromise our technical know-how, shouldn’t we be even more concerned about established nations who are well financed and determined to undermine our security? For example, just this week, a group calling itself the “Iranian Cyber Army” hacked and defaced Twitter and we were helpless to prevent it. Also noteworthy is that this same week, it was reported that our defense plans with respect to South Korea, including operational details, were hacked into and stolen by North Korea.

Unfortunately, however, we do not even seem to take threats from other nations as seriously as we should: As the Journal reported, “senior U.S. military officers working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the danger of Russia and China intercepting and doctoring video from the drone aircraft in 2004, but the Pentagon didn’t begin securing signals until this year.”

I am deeply respectful of our military and the men and women who put their lives on the line for our nation. It is because of that deep respect that I reach out with concern about our overconfidence that we are technologically superior, and about our dismissal and underestimation of the resolve of our enemies.



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