The American Association of Arrogance

Posted on November 13, 2014 by Robert Ringer


If you’re like me, you probably find card-carrying members of the AAA (American Association of Arrogance) hard to stomach. But it’s still a good idea to learn, even from those you find repugnant.

What can you learn from these self-anointed saints? Answer: plenty. For the sake of brevity, I’ll mention just three of the most obvious lessons.


Lesson No. 1: Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

There’s probably not a person on earth who hasn’t tripped himself up on this one at one time or another. Isn’t it amazing how the whole truth seems to have a way of surfacing, often at the most inopportune time?

Of course, when it comes to politicians, we expect them to lie. But what’s amazing is how, even when they’re caught, they still resist coming totally clean. While you certainly don’t expect honesty from them, you’d like to believe they are at least intelligent. Yet, they don’t seem to be able to recognize when the time has come to fess up?

I believe this is because their power-driven arrogance gives them a feeling of omnipotence. The laws they pass are for the governed, not for those who govern. But you and I should always keep in mind that we aren’t members of the ruling class. Which is why it’s a good idea, when confronted, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I only needed one bad experience, early in life, to convince me of that. It happened when I was about seven or eight years old. I had gone into a “drugstore” (different meaning then) with my older sister, without a dime in my pocket, and did something I had never done before: steal. It was a colorful rubber ball … and, well, I just did it. No excuses. Couldn’t resist.

When we got home, my dad asked my sister and me where we had been, and we told him we were at the drugstore. He then asked where I got the ball I was holding. Yikes! “Er … uh … I found it in the street,” I responded nervously.

“Really?” my dad asked. “Then why does it look brand-new, and why does it have a price sticker on it?”

“Doh!” (Or some similar pre-Homer Simpson response that I can’t recall.)

My dad continued his relentless questioning. “Is that really a ball you found in the street or is it a ball you took from the drugstore?”

Had it happened in today’s moral environment, I might have come up with a more clever answer like, “That depends upon what the meaning of is is.” But knowing my dad, it’s a good thing I didn’t. I would have been lucky to have gotten off without being waterboarded.

My dad hustled me into the car, drove to the drugstore, and made me give the ball back to the owner and apologize. I was ashamed of myself and cried all the way home. I wasn’t allowed to play outside for a week. Funny how life works … it wasn’t until decades later that I was able to fully appreciate what a great father my dad was for making me face up to what I had done.

One lesson was all that I needed. When I took that ball, I didn’t really give it a lot of thought. I just did it. But adults do think when they do something dishonest, which is why it takes a great deal of arrogance for an adult to believe he can get away with a dishonest act.

If you don’t make a conscious effort to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, you may just end up having a good cry over a beer with Pete Rose or Lance Armstrong someday.


Lesson No. 2: Don’t buy into arrogance.

I try to follow a simple rule when it comes to people who are self-righteous: The more they dwell on their virtues — both directly and indirectly— the more skeptical I become. As Thoreau said, “There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man.”

Given that I’ve never met a real, live saint, it would be hard for anyone to convince me that he falls into that semi-divine category. Which is why I’ve become so selective over the years in both my business and personal life. I go out of my way to avoid people who practice incest with themselves.

Aside from giving me an upset stomach, the problem with dealing with self-anointed saints is that you can’t count on them to shoot straight with you. Why? Because arrogance breeds lying, and people who lie are dangerous to those around them.

If nothing else, their decisions are often based on ego fulfillment rather than an honest appraisal of the facts. If I’m involved with someone, I need to know that his decisions are based on rational thinking.

The key to keeping arrogant people — and, for that matter, all badly flawed people — out of your life is to master the art of detachment, a subject I have written about extensively. Remember, no one person or deal is of life-or-death importance, even though people often convince themselves otherwise.

When someone comes across as self-righteous and arrogant, one word should immediately pop into your mind: “Next!” Then, move on.


Lesson No. 3: Continually monitor your own actions for any signs of arrogance.

In hindsight, I can see that I was pretty arrogant myself in my early twenties. It was an easy mistake for me to make, because I had a grandiose vision of who I was — even though I had accomplished very little.

Since those early days, I have observed this same condition in other people all too many times, a phenomenon often referred to as “arrogance of the ignorant.” What I’ve found through the years is that humility tends to come with age — for normal people, that is. One big reason for this is because, with enough years and experience under one’s belt, a rational person ultimately arrives at the all-too-obvious conclusion that, in the end, everyone loses.

That’s right — regardless of how rich, how famous, or how powerful you may be, you’re going to lose the final battle. For some poor souls, that last defeat comes early in life. For others, it arrives much later. But, rich or poor, sooner or later, everyone loses in the end.

It is not my intention here to convey a pessimistic message. On the contrary, the fact that death wins 100 percent of the time is all the more reason to live life to the fullest, to strive to be the best you can be at everything you do, and, above all, to try hard to maintain that ever-elusive state of mind, happiness. If there were no such thing as death, by what standard could we measure the preciousness of life?

From time to time, it’s healthy to think about the reality that ultimately everyone loses, because it’s a great antidote to arrogance. Arrogance gets in the way of living up to your full potential. It gets in the way of enjoying meaningful relationships.   And, above all, it gets in the way of happiness.

Don’t concern yourself with the fact that most members of the American Association of Arrogance will never get any of this. All you need to focus on is not buying into their arrogance, keeping them out of your life, and striving to achieve one of the most admired of all human traits — a trait that will make your journey through life eminently easier — humility.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

24 responses to “The American Association of Arrogance”

  1. Diane Young says:

    Arrogance is so unbecoming. It will keep you alone and isolated, whether you realize it or not. And while we're at it, everyone hates a whiner and negative people who look like they suck lemons for a hobby.

  2. RealitySeeker says:

    "Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

    That's good advice, mostly, when dealing with a dwindling number of people, but nowadays "telling the truth can be a seditious act" of and by itself. Yes, we live in some twisted times, indeed.

    It has been estimated that Joe Ignorant and/or his dumb kid breaks three laws per day— which means that talking to Mr. Law Man and/or Mr. Agent Man and/or some Pakistani store keeper can get you into some very deep excrement right up to your eyeballs.

    You want some up-to-date advice? Keep your mouth shut, mostly. And, if your dumb kid steals something and gets away with it, do yourself and your dumb kid a big favor and mail the stolen goods back— anonymously— or pay for the goods with cash and an untraceable apology note.. If your kid makes a big score, then you better get seek out a well connected legal man and make arrangements though him. And not just any Bozo, either, you need an attorney who can be trusted.

    Yes, keep your mouth shut and take the Fifth whether or not you've done anything wrong. Wise up your kids, too. The American police-state is only going to get worse until a complete collapse, viz., that I call the Great Hell…

  3. mivot says:

    "Arrogance of the ignorant" brings to mind that the people I've met with the biggest sense of entitlement have been mediocrities. Unbeautiful women who felt it was their divine right to marry a tremendously wealthy man and still aren't married at all, for example.

    • Michael says:

      That's an odd example. So beautiful women have a divine right to marry tremendously wealthy men but mediocre, "unbeautiful" women do not? What does beauty have to do with it?

    • Fox says:

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…so wouldn't your statment be ignorant? In addition doesn't this make you arrogant in the fact that you feel you can or should judge someone else's actions? I think you missed one of the points here….keep your mouth shut!

      • mivot says:

        Give me a break. When Melania Trump was asked, "Would you have married Donald if he weren't so rich?" she answered. "No. But would he have married me if I weren't beautiful?" Incidentally, Robert Ringer's wife was a "Playboy Magazine" centerfold playmate of the month. No joke.

  4. bullwink says:

    R.R., Brilliant ! as you seem to has passed your "wisdom" along you got it from your father….perhaps single parent families have been depriving Americans of a sound moral basis for generations now, as LBJ was a "king of ignorance" putting in place expansion of Federally funded housing, school lunches etc, the poor and the arrogant seem to enjoy the will to "empowerment/entitlement"
    Earlier in life I was "shamed" for acting impulsively, my peers read Rubin's "Steal this Book"
    Altho being a "good hardworking fella" is lonely at times "misery loves company" seems to be the rule, social media fans the flames of vanity"
    America is lonely, the media is 99% entertainment and 100% obscene , The New york Post is the oldest newspaper ,remember "the College Bowl" on Saturday mornings where Academic prowess was celebrated ? I find reassurance in the few avoid the many, "A Healthy Body a healthy mind" now "if you got it flaunt it" the Kardashians have great wealth fueled by people's preoccupation w/ the irrelevant"
    Been rereading "Million Dollar Habits" Frankl and the 4 wills seems to explain quite a bit, thanks for helping me to see "the Bright side of Reality" for nothing else has one…

    • Daniel says:

      "Steal This Book". That was Abbie Hoffman; wasn't it? I read it, too. Interesting deceptions. I have often wondered if Abbie Hoffman got any of his cons from Frank Abagnale, a consummate confidence man. Hoffman was a radical; an anarchist who was unabashed (arrogant) in his criticism of, and desire to bring down, "the system". What, exactly, would have taken its place I could never really grasp from what he wrote. Anyway, "Steal This Book" seems antithetical to "Looking Out For #1" in innumerable ways; not the least of which is the precept of value-for-value exchange. Hoffman favored screw-for-value, instead.

      • Jean says:

        What's totally ironic about Hoffman is that he ended up living the "2 kids, 2 cars and a house in the suburbs" life – and by George, demanded that HE be PAID for the work he did. Funny what growing up will do to a person!

  5. Linda says:

    It is hard to keep arrogant people out of my life when they are my overlords that decide practically everything of importance in my life. I am of course referring to the politicians that pass bills and the regulators that make regulations.

  6. larajf says:

    I've found that telling the truth is better because then I don't have to remember the lie :-) (ok, I stole that from someone else, but it is true). And there is a fine line between being confident and arrogant. A confident person can back it up. Still, I don't think a confident person would need to take down anyone else like an arrogant person would.

  7. greggsan says:

    Arrogance is beneath me.

    Now humility is my only remaining fault.

    (just for fun)

  8. Scott theczech says:

    Guilt, Arrogance, Victimization, Envy, Anger, Demonization! I enjoy reading and ruminating on every one of Robert's writings about these terrible, yet manageable flaws. Thank you RJR once again.

  9. Serge says:

    Right on, everyone looses in the end. It would be nice If the AAA would only get a life and focus on improving themselves. AAA's need to let their egos get out of their own way. They are here on earth for such a short time and be best spending that time on impressing themselves which would make a happier society.

  10. tequila sunrise says:

    Arrogance is the result of life's expectancy theory from the Pygmalion Effect phenomenon. Pygmalion was a sculpture who decided to carve a woman statue whose beauty satisfies his taste. He lost interest in natural women, because he finds them imperfect, thus do not fit his expectations. Thus, he became fond of his creation, caressing her as if she was a real woman, short of falling in love with her. On one occasion, during the festivities of women goddesses, while Pygmalion was caressing his statue, it responded to his love overtures. It became alive! Aphrodite or Venus, goddess of love gave life to the ivory statue.
    This is where arrogance comes in. Arrogant people create statues in their minds about who they are. statues of fame and glory, short of falling in love with their own reflection! They believe that what they think in their heads about themselves is real but the truth is they are only statues which are given life by themselves.

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