Monday, June 9, 2008

Hubris, Hubris

"What we know with certainty is that...the long run was longer than Clinton anticipated."

"Hubris was the campaign's fatal flaw, from which the others, both strategic and tactical, dervied."

David Paul Kuhn, "Hillary Clinton's 5 Mistakes," Politico, June 7

Hubris is an all-too-human failure that undermines learning, anticipation, and adaptation. I discussed hubris as a fatal flaw of philanthropy in Philanthropy's Crucible. Another related meaning of hubris according to Webster's is supercilious-- "cooly and patronizingly haughty."

The problem for all of us is sorting out the difference between hubris and being singleminded, relentless, overconfident, unswerving, dedicated, and so on. So, who tries to scale mountains or paint butterflies and is not arrogant?

In my social investing experience it's sometimes difficult to distinguish who stuck with a "bad idea" too long and who persevered with an unpopular "good idea" through hailstorms of opposition. Of course, as my father used to tell me, "everything is crystal clear in retrospect."

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