Danger, Anxiety, Certainty and Arrogance

PGS’ Founder, Bill Dann, met recently with a friend and consultant David DiPerri of Prosper CI, to be interviewed for Mr. DiPerri’s book he is writing for business owners. Bill touched on four concepts in his interview that all play off each other in a fascinating way, and that made for an interesting post to share with our readers. The concepts are danger, anxiety, certainty and arrogance.  For purposes of this blog, the definitions are:

  • Anxiety: worry over a perceived threat to your organization, market share, staff, etc.
  • Danger: a real threat to your organization, market share, staff, etc.
  • Certainty: confident assurance that you are accurate in your understanding of your staff, product, customer, market, etc.
  • Arrogance: over-confidence that you are accurate in your understanding so that you dismiss data that would tell you otherwise

The terms developed out of Bill’s response to Mr. DiPerri’s question of what his greatest lesson was over the years.  Bill responded: “No matter how dark it is, don’t let fear take over.  I got the attitude (as I started PGS) that no one was going to stop me. You have to believe you will be successful regardless of the darkness.”

Bill added that you must be able to discern whether the darkness you are experiencing is due to danger or anxiety, because there is a critical distinction between them. Anxiety is worry over a perceived threat, and it is not a very constructive emotion or mental state because it breeds inaction. You stew over what to do and most often end up doing nothing because you don’t have certainty.

On the other hand, danger is real and must be dealt with. Danger compels you to take action because the calamity you are seeing is real and is not an acceptable outcome. There may still be some uncertainty of what to do or even what the results will be of your actions, but in danger, you are willing to overcome the uncertainty because the realization is that, if you don’t take action, the danger will win.

When you are faced with anxiety or danger, then, what do you do? You work to get certainty. Certainty erases anxiety and moves you out of danger.  As a leader, you need certainty to move forward in confidence, to stand up against anxiety and to push through and find solutions when you encounter danger.  The caveat? It is in the pursuit and application of certainty that you risk falling into arrogance. As you move toward certainty, you must remain aware of what others and the market are telling you and to test their input for truth. Why? The greater your certainty and therefore your confidence, the higher the risk that the certainty and confidence can quietly and quickly evolve into arrogance that blinds you to bad decisions.

A simple example, when you have a product that you are certain the market needs and wants, you may miss customers or employees or market data telling you that your product is missing the mark and what changes would be beneficial. While certainty and confidence is necessary to be an entrepreneur or to introduce a new product line, i.e., to put yourself at risk, certainty that is blind to feedback is arrogance and is susceptible to danger.

In the end, the key to understanding and successfully navigating danger – anxiety – certainty – arrogance is wisdom. Wisdom to know when you are facing real danger vs anxiety. And wisdom to know when certainty is providing the necessary courage to face danger, face naysayers and push ahead through anxiety vs certainty that is evolving into arrogance and is at risk of dismissing legitimate danger.  Certainty is the antidote to danger and anxiety, but arrogance is the evil alter ego of certainty.  Knowing the distinctions and watching for the signs is essential as a leader.

We are interested in knowing your thoughts and experience with anxiety, danger, certainty and arrogance. Drop us an email to join the conversation.