A core value for sustaining success over the long term

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 10, Issue No. 6
September, 2011

By Dan Coughlin



Pride has gotten a bad rap over the years.

First, it got lumped into the seven deadly sins, and then it was labeled a negative as executives and managers went in search of humility. It became the in-thing to say, “I was just lucky to be surrounded by good people, and I really didn’t have anything to do with our success.” If humility means focusing on the good of the organization and not pounding on your chest about how great you are or how your organization’s results happened just because of you, then I agree. If humility means putting yourself down in every situation just so you appear to be humble, I suggest you stay away from it.

Being proud of what happened in the past can you give the fuel to focus on acting in a way that you will be proud of what happens in the future. Strengthening your level of pride does require some reflection time and effort.

Be Proud of Yourself, Your Family, and Your Community

Start with your personal life. Is there something you did over the past year to take better care of yourself or to develop some aspect of who you are or to improve the way you present yourself to other people that you are particularly proud of? Start a list of “Things I’m Proud Of” and put that on your list.

Move on to your family life. What are you proud of that you did in the past year? Was there a moment or an experience you had with a family member that you are proud of in the way you handled it? Is there something about your whole family or a member of your family that makes you proud to be part of that group? Too often people put their families down as being dysfunctional. Every family has parts that function well and parts that do not function well. It doesn’t make the family “dysfunctional.” It means it’s a family. Focus on the pride you have in your family.

Think about the community you live in. What have you done in your community over the past year that you are proud of, regardless of whether or not it generated a great result? What about your community are you proud of?

Be Proud of Your Organization and the Work You Do

Think of the work you’ve done over the past year. Write down the various projects you were involved with and the day-to-day work that never changed. What about your efforts and accomplishments are you proud of? This doesn’t mean that you achieved some amazing results. Business results are partly determined by the marketplace and the economic conditions. However, the quality of your work and your attention to detail is completely independent of the marketplace and the economy. What is it that you did or created this past year that you are proud of?

If you don’t take the time to identify what you are proud of, you may not see the importance of your work going forward. Regardless of whether or not you were recognized by your boss, got a promotion or a raise, or heard from your peer group, it is still vitally important that you take the time to identify what you are proud of in your past. Knowing that you did something you are proud of will give you the motivation to persevere and to continue to make the effort necessary to be proud of your future activities.

What are you proud of in your organization? Is there a group within your company that inspires you with their level of commitment to your customers? What is it about your company’s brand and what it represents that you are proud of?

Notice: this article is mainly about questions rather than examples. I really want you to take out a sheet of paper and write down what you are proud of. For the past four years the world has focused on its problems and financial difficulties. We need to step off that train for awhile and focus instead on what we are proud of in our lives. Too many people are acting like this is the worst generation in the history of the world. If all we focus on is what we’re doing a poor job at, then we will continue to recycle the downward spiral. Earl Nightingale had six great pieces of advice. He said, “You become what you think about.” Take some time to think about what you are proud of in your life.

Be Proud of Your Country

In the massive debates over whether or not huge countries should spend more than they bring in every month, there seems to be a vacuum around the discussion of pride in one’s country. The political debates around the world have become more divisive and more concentrated on what is wrong with each country. What are you proud of about your country? Write it down. Know it. See it every day.

Be Proud of Your Future

After you have taken the time to really identify what you are proud of in your life, I want you to answer this question,

“What would I have to do in the future to be truly proud of myself?”

I’m not talking about acclaim from others and expensive possessions. I’m talking about the way you try to make an impact in the world around you at home, in your community, in your work, and in your country.

In this way, personal pride can become a driving force for living the kind of life you want to sustain for as long as you live. Don’t be fooled by those people who say pride is wrong. It’s not wrong to be proud of your efforts even when no one else recognizes them and you don’t achieve great financial success. Having a new car or home is fun, but that’s not the only things to be proud of. Instead be proud of your effort that allowed you to buy the home or car. And if you weren’t able to afford a new car or home, be proud of the effort you put in to try to be financially successful or to try to add more value to a customer. Pride can’t be just about the award or reward. It also has to focus on your effort and the quality of what you actually did. Don’t be fooled into believing you have nothing to be proud of just because your actual results may have fallen far short of your desired results.

The vast majority of great achievers in the past have had very long stretches where they produced very poor results. However, they took pride in their work and kept persevering until the quality of their work intersected with the needs of the marketplace and produced a suddenly “successful” person. Don’t focus on having to have success at the end of every rainbow of effort. Instead take pride in the actual quality of the effort you are putting in to creating greater value for other people and to producing the result you want.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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