Tony Hsieh: Be smart and talented, not egotistical

“What the world needs is more geniuses with humility; there are so few of us left.”
Pianist Oscar Levant [1906-1972]

Tony HsiehThe photo is Tony Hsieh – CEO of, an online shoe and clothing store.

Hsieh (pronounced ‘shay’) comments: “There are a lot of smart, talented people out there who are also egotistical. We won’t even hire them.”

Tony Hsieh is author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

You can probably easily think of examples of very smart, highly competent people who apparently have personalities with egotism or narcissism.

Steve Jobs was called arrogant and egocentric, aggressive and mean-spirited at times.

A judge in 2001 said Bill Gates had a “Napoleonic concept of himself.”

Both of these guys may be hypomanic achievers.

Hypomania can include being “filled with energy… flooded with ideas… driven, restless, and unable to keep still… often works on little sleep… feels brilliant, special, chosen, perhaps even destined to change the world… can be euphoric… becomes easily irritated by minor obstacles… is a risk taker…”

Those quotes are from the book The Hypomanic Edge.

This topic of humility is of interest to me partly because growing up, it was such a forced and enforced “virtue” in my conservative Christian family, and my parents “outlawed” what they considered “talking back” to them or being self-assertive and expressive in many ways.

Probably many introverted, highly sensitive and talented kids have had difficulty with being confident, self-assured and self-directed.

Poster for The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013Of course, what we hear about in media and movies is more likely to be examples of talented adults who engage in “diva,” arrogant, egotistical, even destructive behavior.

One example is the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013, directed by Martin Scorsese, based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, “a New York stockbroker who refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street.” [Wikipedia]

It was gratifying and encouraging to hear about a corporate culture like Zappos with such a list of Family Core Values.

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> Also see my article Ego and Creativity.


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Originally posted 2010-06-11 19:01:22.

1 comment

  1. Hey Douglas,

    Great post, I have not heard of the Zappos Culture and It sounds something that I would be really interested in.

    It used to annoy me as child knowing that I was talented but not been given the light of day by some teachers because I wasn’t outspoken and confident like some other kids.

    Thankfully I learnt that it wasn’t me that was the problem and teachers are only human too.

    We should embrace all talent!

    Thanks for sharing
    Beth :)

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