At the dead-dog dinner after TeslaCon
, I got a chance to hear some of Thomas Willeford
's opinions about his experience on the reality TV program “Steampunk'd
.” He couldn't say much because he was still held under terms on a non-disclosure agreement. At this year's VandaliaCon
, it had been a year since the show had aired so many of the restrictions had been lifted and he was able to talk more openly about what happened behind the scenes. I don't want to attempt to retell his stories (go to a con where he is a guest and hear them for yourself) but some of the things he said resonated with me and I wanted to expand on that.
He went into “Steampunk'd” as a potential competitor and ended up telling the pre-screen judges flat out that they wouldn't let him compete because he was that good. Wanting to have an actual competition, that earned him a seat at the judge's table but also earned him some accusations of arrogance.
arrogance, noun, an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people.
But what if you actually are better?
I have worked IT for a long time. Help desk for 16 years now. My job is to use my technical knowhow and experience to solve other people's computer problems. When I do that, however, I regularly (well, not in this latest job) would be accused of being arrogant or condescending. In part, I think it's having a baritone voice that I try to use in a measured manner so I can be understood clearly over the phone but the other part is people's reluctance to admit that they don't know something. The Dunning-Kruger effect
explains that people tend to believe themselves more competent than they actually are and the less you know, the more confident you are in your delusion of competence.
When you are calling the Help Desk, you have already admitted that you don't know how to fix the problem and then, when I fix that problem, I'm not sure how that makes me arrogant. Sorry, I really do know more than you do.
Additionally, I see a strong current of anti-intellectualism in this country. Most especially in the realm of politics, people think that being college educated is worthless, that their ignorance is somehow more qualifying than your knowledge. I have even been accused of (and this is my absolute favorite insult) “pretending to be a pseudo intellectual.”
This was spewed entirely without a sense of irony.
But, with Dunning-Kruger, how do I know that I am competent and confident and not arrogant? Can a narcissist recognize his own narcissism? Well, in the IT realm, I know through my success. I know what I know and do not claim to know what I don't know. When I have an intractable problem, I admit that I don't have a solution. And I certainly don't try to tell people their jobs.
Apparently, not letting them tell me my job is egotism.
And when I go to conventions and give presentations on topics of which I have become knowledgeable; airships and the like, for example, how do I know I'm not arrogant and condescending to the people who sit in the audience absorbing the information I am bestowing on them? I know by, when they come up to me and compliment me, I am still embarrassed by their compliment. I feel honored that they took the time to come to my presentation. And when they offer disappointment for having missed one of my presentations, I have no problem dropping whatever I was doing and spending time with them to catch them up on whatever they may have missed.
Worst. Narcissist. Ever.