Re: Don't Confuse Arrogance with Chronic Correctness. -- sdw

From: Stephen D. Williams (
Date: Thu Jan 04 2001 - 00:47:18 PST

Dan Kohn wrote:
> The author of the theory/practice quote is Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut.
> The quote is: "In theory, there is no difference between theory and
> practice. But, in practice, there is." [1]

This very well may have inspired the quote I use. I found mine in a usenet
signature at least 8 years ago.

> He was Rob Harley's thesis advisor until Snepscheut was killed in a
> tragic fire [2].
> [1]
> [2] Question 40 of <>

Very sad.
> - dan
> P.S. I believe that if there is anything that stops me from
> accomplishing what I hope to in life, it will be arrogance and hubris.
> I think all of us are constantly faced with a multitude of decisions
> where we have to decide if we want to be right or if we want to get
> things done. I subscribe to the Rodney King theory of venture capital
> human resources management: "Why can't we all just get along?"

First, as I mentioned, it was made up in jest. The intended meaning is "Don't
confuse arrogance with confidence." but it seems funnier to me as worded.

This definition seems to be the best to me:

arrogance n : overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward
inferiors [syn: haughtiness, lordliness]

Obviously this is subject to lots of interpretation by various parties, but I
personally never treat others as inferiors, or for the most part superiors. I
have one friend who liked to point out that I treat the cleaning crew the same
as top management and everyone else. That doesn't mean that I value people
the same, just that I don't socially inflict opinions externally. Developers
that have worked for me told me when we were parting that they greatly liked
working with me.

On the other hand, we all have to compare ourselves to others and others will
compare us. We should have a pretty good idea where we are in the scheme of
things and where we can be useful or who we can learn from or possibly who can
learn from us. Recognizing this, acting upon it, and being able to talk about
it fairly is required.

As a consultant most of my career and more recently when talking to VC's et
al, I've had to learn to sell myself and allow myself to be 'sold' by others
for their benefit. It's annoying but a fact of professional life. I hope I'm
never taken as being condescending.

In high school I was a very competitive runner: track, cross country, 10k,
marathons, triathalons, etc. I learned a lot about life: hard work pays off
eventually, things that seem impossible can be obtained working harder (and
often harder than others), you have to believe you can reach high goals long
before you make it, and there is always someone better than you are. Race
times are hard facts that need no spin either for excuse or self-deprecation.
I don't see technical accomplishments much differently, although certainly
there are subjective angles.

> My answer is that I think most of us are more interested in being right,
> or getting the credit, or showing off our witty repartee, rather than
> quietly getting the job done.

'Witty repartee' is just trying to have fun most of the time and is only
annoying when excessively time consuming, IMHO. As to the rest, there are
fine lines to walk in each case. Sometimes being right can be vastly better
than just getting the job done any old way. Sometimes trying to be completely
correct causes 'analysis paralysis'. Only experience (both sucessful and
unsuccessful) can allow a person to make good choices. We have all seen time
wasted; but at least some of us have seen people work quietly and produce crap
that could have been improved by some interaction.

One big point I want to make though is that you have to internally believe you
can succeed and improve things and build up confidence by actually being
successful. You should keep reaching until you start bumping into your limits
and then back off slightly and try again. Any other strategy is likely to
leave some ability 'on the table'. There is a big difference between
internally believing you can do better and displaying arrogance before you do
it. The reality is that most people can do most things given enough time and

> P.P.S. Stephen, no criticism whatsoever is intended here, as I don't
> know your situation, and as I said, I am in no position to throw stones.

That's ok, I don't mind being introspective in semi-public.

> --
> Dan Kohn <>
> <> <tel:+1-650-327-2600>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Matt Jensen []
> Sent: Tuesday, 2001-01-02 22:20
> To: Stephen D. Williams
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: Don't Confuse Arrogance with Cronic Correctness. -- sdw
> On Tue, 2 Jan 2001, Stephen D. Williams wrote:
> > My other favorite has been (since I found it in a signature long ago):
> >
> > The difference between theory and practice in practice is greater than
> > the difference between theory and practice in theory.
> I like this take:
> "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they're not."
> --unknown author
> -Matt Jensen
> Seattle

Stephen D. Williams         Insta, Inc./Jabber.Com, Inc./CCI
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