Arrogance is the drunk uncle of confidence. And, not surprising many of my colleagues, peers, and clients are under the influence. When I encounter these people, I try to find some redeeming quality about them. I look for some accomplishment or depth of knowledge that they may possess which allows them a free pass on their arrogance. If I cannot find something, well then, they are annoying and obnoxious; however, there is a difference between arrogance and confidence. Most of the times I hear someone call another person arrogant; I realize that behind the comment is jealousy. These people have self-doubt and instead of working on themselves, they go to work on others.
When I worked in television, arrogance was commonplace. Most reporters and anchors have dreams of big markets and aspirations of national news, but in order to get there, you have to be good. I watched as many mediocre reporters with lofty dreams take delight in those who were good, screw up. What they lacked in skill and confidence was more than made up for with arrogance. On the outside, they were brashly confident, but filled with self-doubt. For some that self-doubt equaled suicide. They couldn’t concentrate on making themselves better because they consumed themselved with thoughts that someone else would be better. When one of their peers screwed up, there was delight. Arrogance clouded their reality, as they seemed to believe it would somehow, make them would look better.
I had the privilege to work with a very young and talented reporter. He was intelligent, charismatic, friendly, funny, and handsome; however, he was not as “seasoned” as some thought he should be for that particular newsroom’s standards (talk about arrogance) – but, he was good. His stories always made it to air and his live reports successful. As a producer, I could constantly count on him to a get story on the newscast. He was the “cocky” kid at the news station. On one particularly slow news night, this reporter searched for a story. Every source, lead, and potential story had fallen through. His perceived streak of luck and good fortune was ending to the delight of those with green eyes. The golden boy just might fail…and it was going to be that night. Then, over the scanner, a call went out about car accident. Not big news…but it sounded as if it might be news. The accident involved a horse. The reporter jumped and with a photographer in two was out the door. I needed a story with only 45 minutes to air. If there was anyone who could make this work, it was this reporter. He was the one reporter that would try to make anything and everything work. He had the lemons/lemonade attitude.
Time passed…no word. Would the one person I believed in make it work? I bit my nails, and told myself – he will do it, he’ll come through. About 10 minutes to air, a live feed popped up and there stood this reporter ready with a story. He was brilliant; his on-camera presence was incredible. He walked and talked about the accident, he told a story about the horse, he described how the horse and the driver collided. He took us to the location, and warned of traffic problems, everything that made it newsworthy. (Honestly, when he left – I had doubt about the newsworthiness of this story!)
This reporter was definitely confident. Did he verge on cockiness? Perhaps at times but he earned it. He performed day in and day out. His peers were jealous because he appeared to report with ease, but I knew he was passionated about his profession and practiced to perfection. He wanted good material for the station but insisted on it for himself. His talent and confidence enabled him to tell a story that producers, news directors, and most importantly, viewers wanted. I feel quite sure that he does not believe the dead horse story was his crowning glory as a journalist by a long shot. But, I believe it was. It was an example of professionalism, he didn’t give up and didn’t give in…he could have easily turned a generic story. He had other options, but chose to chase the unknown driven by his confidence in himself. This young man’s talents created the lead story on the evening news.
The reporter’s name is Adam May. To quote portions his biography at his current news station in Balitmore, MD:
He is one of the leading Baltimore TV reporters on major issues, such as gas prices and the energy crisis, port security and witness intimidation… In 2006, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences named Adam “Best Live Reporter” in the Mid-Atlantic Region. He holds another local Emmy Award for an undercover investigation that exposed the driving habits of teenagers.
In Alabama he was honored for his coverage of the 2000 Presidential election, as he reported live from the George W. Bush election night party in Austin, Texas.
There is nothing wrong with being confident. There is nothing wrong with believing in yourself, believing in being the best and striving to do your best no matter the circumstance. If you talk the talk and walk the walk – you are confident. If you just talk – you are arrogant.
*This was written with the permission of Adam May.