Trying to be less arrogant

I’m an arrogant bastard.

There, I said it.

Now, before you run off, let me explain. You see, in high school and college, I was often considered “the smart one” by my group of friends. I was, by all accounts, a good student. I had good grades, got along with my professors, and was even part of the Honors Program. I also had a big mouth, in the sense that I had no fear of speaking in class. I majored in English, and as such, I did a lot of reading. I was the guy who openly hated just about every book that the professors forced us to read. But, I was also the guy who clearly had READ the book, and could provide examples and reasons for my dislike. At the very least, I was known to make conversations interesting.

Let me tell you a few things about the Scarlet Letter.
Let me tell you a few things about the Scarlet Letter.

Not only this, but as any professor of English will tell you, part of the major is learning to prepare and present arguments. I became good at this, and found myself using these skills in my regular life. I enjoy debating things with my friends, because I am an intellectual at heart. That, and I like hearing myself talk.

And up until recently, I liked to hear myself be right.

In a major where a lot of the work is opinion and argument based, it’s easy to forget that those opinions you’re writing about in your papers is exactly that, opinions. It’s not the sole right answer, nor is the single correct way to see things. It’s just one of many ways to view a situation. Unfortunately, I forgot that simple fact, and became so sure that my thought process was always the correct one.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a real, big boy job, and found out that I knew practically nothing.

“You know nothing, Derek Pietras” doesn’t even cover it.

You mean I didn't know everything there ever was to know?
You mean I didn’t know everything there ever was to know?

But instead of just admitting my ignorance and working to fix it, I clung to the idea that I was right, and just about everyone else was wrong.

See? Arrogant bastard.

Writing about this time in my life makes it painfully clear just how arrogant I was behaving at the time. However, when you’re living in the moment, you are often too close to the situation to take a step back and see the true problems. It didn’t help matters that I have a good support group at home (Moms always take your side when you’re angry at someone else), so I was able to string these ideas along for far, far too long.

This wasn’t just work, either. A writer friend of mine (find her blog at CLMannarino.com) spend a lot of our time discussing…well, everything. She and I come from different worlds, and have very different opinions on most every subject. She’s a great person to talk to, because her perspective is so very different from mine.

I used to think she was wrong. Now, I see that she just has a different point of view.

When I first realized this, I panicked. After all, I couldn’t believe how I had been acting. I had been portraying myself and my ideas are the one and only one correct way to handle things. But, once I took a step back and really thought about it, I realized something else.

I have to be more open to others’ ideas. The fact that I have an opinion on everything is not wrong. But it becomes wrong when I ignore everyone else’s ideas. It was so easy to think that every solution had a clear-cut correct way to view it (which also conveniently happened to be my way to view it). But, now that I’ve become more aware of myself, I realize that it’s time to be more open to others’ ideas. Stop preaching and start talking, as it were.

I think I can handle that.

Let's talk about the Scarlet Letter.
Let’s talk about the Scarlet Letter.

And that brings me to the present day. Instead of thinking my ideas are the solely correct ones, I now view my ideas as just one of many possible answers, where there may be multiple correct paths or none at all. But, I’m hoping that by sharing my ideas as ideas only and entering a conversation, I can chip away at my ignorance and put my arrogance aside.

So, strap in. It’s sure to be a bumpy ride, but like all great journeys, by the time we reach the destination, we emerge better people for it.

Welcome to DerekPietras.com. Let’s take this journey together.

Note: Image of Male Student Shows Thumbs Up courtesy of  imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Image of Entrepreneur with Headache courtesy of <em>David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Captions are my own (hopefully) clever witticisms

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