November 2009

Why Tiger wins

I once asked a golf expert what makes Tiger Woods incomparably better at the game than, say, someone like me. And the answer was: “He knows he can sink the putt.” Yet he comes across as quite a modest person, don’t you think?

I believe that points to a crucial distinction: being sure (vs. full) of yourself. Confidence—belief in your ability to do what you’re trying to do—is essential. We all know people who, though talented, achieve less than they could because they don’t have faith in themselves. Confidence is what keeps you from getting in your own way.

Arrogance, on the other hand, is less about believing in yourself than about underestimating or undervaluing other people. I’d say it usually comes from a need to prove that you’re really as good as you wish you were.

In fact, when you look at their origins, both those words tell their own story. “Confidence” is rooted in the idea of faith and reliance, while “arrogance” stems from claiming something for oneself. The first has the kind of energy that multiplies; the second divides and subtracts.

When we talk about becoming a world-class institution, it’s not about claiming to be better than everybody else or belittling the efforts of others. It’s about unleashing our potential to be as good as we can be. Given our mission of service, I see that as a moral obligation. And the closer we come to reaching that goal, the more important it becomes to remember that—practically without exception—the truly great are also humble.