The Good Side of “Bad” Attitudes

May 21st, 2015 by Nick Notas 10 Comments



As I get older, I’ve become much more of a critical thinker. I used to be set in my ways: I’d form an opinion and take sides before seeing the whole picture.

Nowadays, I try to look at things from all angles. I’m always trying to challenge my beliefs and the status quo. I’m always asking questions like…

“Is this true? Well…why do I believe it to be true? Is it because I’m afraid to admit I’m wrong? Is it because it’s always been that way? Is it because it makes me feel insecure? Is there another viewpoint I should consider?”

We became humans and rose to top of the food chain through evolution. Survival of the fittest. If you aren’t willing to adapt or change, that’s the death of personal growth. 

Lately I’ve been thinking about so-called “bad” qualities in people. The traits that much of society deem as unhealthy and that tell us we should avoid. And I just keep asking myself…are they really that bad? 

On being prideful 

Pride is one of the “seven deadly sins”. In Christianity, it’s actually viewed as the first and worst sin of all.

When we think of someone who’s prideful, we envision them as narcissistic, arrogant, and pompous. But that is only one form of pride — hubristic pride. 

However, there’s also authentic pride.

Authentic pride is driven by a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-acceptance. It has nothing to do with other people. It is a genuine appreciation for your efforts and accomplishments when you’ve earned it.

In fact, people who experience authentic pride recognize effort. They are happy when other people are doing well for themselves.

Hubristic pride comes from a place of needing to prove your self-worth, to yourself and others. It’s an inferiority complex where you can’t handle the thought of people doing well or being better than you at something. 

Think about your motivations…

If you can say, “I believe I am worthy of great things but I have to work hard for them”, that’s authentic pride.

If you say, “I am better than everyone else and deserve more than them”, that’s hubristic pride.

Authentic pride can be an incredible motivator. It can inspire you to challenge yourself to reach your full potential. Just make sure you’re doing it because you want to improve yourself and not to feel superior to others.

“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

On being selfish

Selfishness is another quality which is often looked down upon. We were told from a young age that we should always share and give to others. It’s excellent advice but when taken to extremes, it can result in investing only in other people and not in ourselves. You don’t work to make yourself happy and then suffer for it.

Look at countries like Japan where the culture is focused on pleasing other people. You, the individual, always come second and it’s shameful to prioritize yourself. Because they bury their needs, they have some of the highest rates of sexual repression and suicide in the world. In my opinion, the societal pressures of placing everyone before yourself and being ashamed of your own desires are major factors in these statistics.

Pure altruism is an extreme. Always caring about everyone before yourself leaves you unfulfilled. The same goes for pure selfishness; of course it’s unhealthy to only want the best for yourself and nobody else. Look at what happened in the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Wall Street executives screwed people over and nearly crippled the world’s economy, all because of greed. 

That’s why I believe everyone could benefit from a dose of wise selfishness. This means accepting that we are all individuals with unique needs. And the only person who can truly understand how to fulfill those needs is YOU.

This encourages everyone to do what’s good for them despite our opinion of it. We should support other people in taking responsibility and investing in themselves, as long as they don’t have any malicious intentions. 

For example, it may be hurtful if someone is not interested in you. But you’re able to understand that you aren’t entitled to their affection. And you accept that they’re allowed to do what’s best for them – including finding a partner who they are interested in.

Wise selfishness leads to more enriched lives and relationships for everyone.

Only when you are happy with yourself can you truly learn to be happy with someone else. You will feel satisfied and not take out your frustration on them. You can give with no strings attached because you’re not missing anything. And you can appreciate their different needs without taking it personally and accept them for who they are.

On being optimistic

“Nick…have you lost your mind? Who sees optimism as a bad thing?”

More people than you know. Many think optimists are naive and look at the world through rose-colored glasses. They believe optimism leaves you unprepared and sets you up for disappointment. Especially with older people I’ve talked to, they see optimists as idealistic dreamers who have no clue how the real world works. 

But these things are only true if you are a foolish optimist.

Foolish optimism is the belief that you can will good things to happen through positive thinking. The book The Secret recently made this popular. It preached that if you simply believe good will come to you, then all your dreams will come true.

Another variation is blind faith. This is the belief that as long as you’re a good person or that you stay positive, external sources will take care of you. This could be karma or a higher being.

I’m not religious myself, but I never hate on others for their faith. I think the antagonistic atheists are just as bad as the people who force God down your throat. But I’ve seen enough bad shit happen to good people to know that you can’t rely on blind faith. You have to take matters into your own hands.

What I do believe is that assuming the best outcome tends to lead to better outcomes. Not because of some mystical force, but because you’re approaching every situation with a winning mindset. You believe you’re capable of succeeding. 

Therefore, you’ll make less excuses and are more likely to take action despite being afraid. You will head into those scenarios full-on and not just half-ass them. And by taking more action in general, you’ll gain experience which leads to more competence and confidence. 

I call this realistic optimism. Assume good things will happen but understand that you never have 100% control over the outcome. Sometimes things won’t work out the way you want and that’s okay. You can only do your best and learn from your experiences.

Assuming the worst and being a cynical pessimist does nothing for you. It’s just a defense mechanism for when you can’t deal with the reality of not getting what you want. You take “failure” as a reflection of your self-worth. Or you don’t take responsibility for the outcome and believe that you were destined to fail.

When you believe that something can’t be done, you’re more likely to act in ways that prove yourself right.

Instead, you need to learn to stay positive, deal with outcomes good or bad, and move on from them. Adopting this attitude won’t guarantee results but it will improve your odds of things going in your favor.

  1. Jermaine on May 21, 2015

    Interesting topic. I think that’s why I’m such a fan of George R. R. Martin. Nobody is black or white but as he says “grey”. All the characters motivations and emotions have so many sides to them. People act in certain ways that evoke emotions of disgust but when you understand their mentality behind them, you can at least understand where they’re coming from.

    • Nick Notas on May 21, 2015

      I love me some Game of Thrones. It’s similar to when you read a book like Lolita where the main character is REALLY screwed up (being an ephebophile and all). But then he’s so open and deep about his emotions that at points you start to see some of his viewpoints and even sympathize with him — which makes you feel gross. It was one of the few books I actually had to put down at points because it was so hard to read.

  2. Mark on May 21, 2015

    Hey Nick,

    Another great post! Your points are classic and bear repeating. As you point out each term comes with connotations and we have to be careful to look at the positive side of each term. I think of your three poits today as “confidence”, “being a self advocate” and “cultivating a mindset of abundance”.

    The last two are the most interesting to me and the ones I find myself having to remind myself of more often.

    Stick up for yourself. Be your own best friend. Don’t spend time doing something just because someone else wants you to. If your friend came to you and said “I’m just don’t want to keep dating my gf” you would say “Yeah. Break up. Be nice and respectful, but break up. You don’t owe her the future.” But without a reason I have always found it hard to feel comfortable doing that.

    Remember the world is a big place full of endless chances, opportunities and forgiveness. When I focus on trying to force something to work; whether its a relationship or in business, I realize I need to just move on to a new person of totally different approach. DONT BE AFFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. Mistakes teach you much more than success. Creativity, passion and perseverance all come from the willingness to fail, and then try again. You aren’t a failure until you give up.

    • Nick Notas on May 22, 2015

      Thanks for the support as always Mark. I like “being a self advocate”, I’ve never phrased it that way but it makes a lot of sense.

      Rejecting someone is never easy. I can’t tell you how hard it was for me in the past because you know that the other person is going to be in some kind of pain. But you have to remember that if you know it’s over, it’s better to let them go now rather than later. It’ll always hurt less.

      Some of the best advice I ever got was from another entrepreneur — he told he just started saying “yes” to everything. Every opportunity, project, goal he had, he just start waking up and immediately committing to them. There’s a reason why Nike’s “Just do it” campaign is arguably one of the most successful slogans of all time.

  3. Angela on May 21, 2015

    I’m very proud of my self and all that I’ve accomplished. I do see how, especially girls, can be shamed sometimes for displaying that pride. I don’t brag but I feel like I’m not supposed to share my successes with other people. I like the idea of authentic pride, I’m going to keep myself in check by keeping that in mind 🙂

    • Nick Notas on May 22, 2015

      I do feel like women are especially looked down upon for being prideful — which is ridiculous. Some people associate pride as a masculine trait and if a woman embodies it, it somehow makes her less feminine.

      If you work your ass off for something, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing your accomplishments. I enjoy sharing my victories with people I care about (like my father) because I know they’ll be excited to hear it. But I also want them to share theirs with me because I want to praise them, too.

  4. Pablo on May 21, 2015

    “But I’ve seen enough bad shit happen to good people to know that you can’t rely on blind faith. You have to take matters into your own hands.”

    For some reason, it just reminded me a passage of Seneca’s letter “On Providence.”

    “Why is it that God afflicts the best men with ill health, or sorrow, or some other misfortune? For the same reason that in the army the bravest men are assigned to the hazardous tasks; it is the picked soldier that a general sends to surprise the enemy by a night attack, or to reconnoitre the road, or to dislodge a garrison. Not a man of these will say as he goes, “My commander has done me an ill turn,” but instead, “He has paid me a compliment.””

    • Nick Notas on May 22, 2015

      That’s a great quote. It never ceases to amaze me how many prolific Roman and Greek writers there were. And how they carry so much relevance even thousands of years later.

      Time to read up on Seneca’s works.

  5. Terence on May 27, 2015

    Great job. Just what I needed to read this morning.