The Difference Between Confidence and Arrogance

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Sometimes I have moments you might call “epiphanies of hindsight” or lessons I didn’t realize I was learning until I reached some vantage point and looked back to see where I’d been. This is one of those.
Here it is: arrogance and confidence are not the same thing – not even close. In fact, they are practically opposites.

Arrogance is the bluster that ultimately comes from fear and insecurity. Confidence – true confidence – is quiet, calm, and difficult to shake.

Arrogance is easy, addictive, and fairly common. It comes with the adrenaline rush of overcoming challenges to your ego, and the satisfaction of proving others wrong with stinging attacks that are sure to send your enemies packing, thus protecting your fragile faith in your own intelligence worth and abilities. So long as you are successful in repelling these attacks and defending yourself and your beliefs, you feel vindicated, justified, and – for the moment – confident. As soon as the next attack comes however, your blood is pumping again and you feel threatened, indignant, and persecuted.

True confidence, on the other hand, is less common, because it is hard won through self awareness, humility, and a great deal of sustained effort. It is also a lot less visible because a person with true confidence has nothing to prove. They also have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, because they are practiced at the skill of hearing criticism, processing it, and learning from the information without taking it personally.

Arrogance is just the opposite. With arrogance, uncertainty itself is so terrifying that even the possibility of being wrong is unacceptable. The skill of adjusting to new information or circumstances has not yet been developed; our personal identity is so strongly tied to our beliefs and plans, our ego so resistant to change, that our fight-or-flight response is engaged when confronted with any serious critique of our beliefs or actions. We come up with excuses and rationalizations, or go on the attack, or even retreat to the safety of “friends” who will allow us to remain safely in denial.

Arrogance is essentially a reflexive willful ignorance of our own mistakes; but when you refuse to acknowledge your mistakes, they don’t go away. They fester and become doubts and insecurities.

The way to true confidence is facing your shortcomings learning the lessons they have to teach you, and acquiring the skills to overcome them. In this way, you transform your shortcomings into strengths. This process itself can be very painful in the same way cleaning a wound can be painful, and yet it is necessary in order to heal and strengthen our confidence (not a bad analogy, right? I totally stole it). This is far from easy, in fact it’s likely that no one has ever perfected this skill, (certainly not the author of this post). It is however, less a prize to be won and more a skill to be honed. It involves a great deal of practice, failure, embarrassment, discomfort, hard choices, and harder consequences. From this crucible however, comes the gold of true confidence. It is the muscle that comes from long hard work, the mastery that comes from years of practice, and the serenity that comes from a life lived honestly and skillfully.

I am far from free of my own arrogance. Those who know me well however, have seen my confidence grow substantially in recent years. This is how I’ve been doing it. I still have a long way to go. I have spent years sharpening my excuse-making, rationalizing, and verbal sparring skills, but have only just begun to develop my skill at honesty, true listening, courage, and self-discipline. Every day, it seems, I find hidden strongholds of arrogance in my beliefs and attitudes, but I am trying to flush them out with honesty, courage, listening, self-discipline and effort. I think I’m just beginning to understand what courage is, and as I do I’m recognizing it in others and gaining inspiration and encouragement.

Thank you, all my friends and family who have cheered for me along the way. I love you all!

The Re-write

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Looking over my last dozen posts or so, I’m noticing a pattern. At some point (probably around the time I decided I wanted to be “a writer”) my posts  shifted from a collection of personal narratives, to very preachy didactic “articles.” Their no bad per-se, but I guess I’ve just decided I don’t like that style or that vision for my blog. I’d rather just tell stories about my adventures. Hopefully well written stories, but stories nonetheless. Here goes!

The Most [superlative] Trip Ever.

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This trip was the most…narly? no, exhausting? scenic? mountainous? off-the-beaten-path? I guess maybe all of the above. Nearly 1,000 miles of mountain roads all in two days (and on less than 8 hours of sleep). The moonlit mountains, the snowy vistas in the California Sierras, redwoods, lakes, the rugged high desert mountains capped with snow, the skyline of snow capped mountains…did I mention there was snow? and Mountains? I wish I had some pictures to share but I was concentrating on driving. Maybe next time.


The Extra Long Haul

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Things are going very well. I'm puttin' away miles like nobody's business. Averaging somewhere around 2,500 miles a week, I am getting ahead fast, financially. Seeing as I'm sort of on a roll and don't have any commitments until November, I've decided to stay on the road through the month of October rather than taking the “obligatory” home time each 21 days. It will be the longest stint I've done so far – 2 entire months. I have been feeling pretty good despite a little cold I picked up on my way from Oklahoma to California. I am beating it off though. I treated myself to a night at a motel 6 last night and even splourged for a pizza delivery to make it the perfect mid-stint vacation. Tomorrow morning I a will be back at it with a load headd for Springfield, Missouri. By the time I get there I will have covered almost 5,000 miles in just over 1 week. Not bad. Not bad at all. I am glad I am getting alot of miles in before winter. Winter tends to slow things down a bit. Blizzards and whatnot. Plus I am hoping to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas which will slow me down a bit.
To my friends and family in the northwest; I feel I owe you an explanation. I have not forsaken you but as I am discovering that less home time = more miles which = more pay, I am finding myself homesick for California more and more. The familiar sights sounds and smells keep calling me back there, but my love for the northwest has not diminished. I hope to visit again soon.
To all my friends who haven't heard from me, I will be in touch more regularly soon – I just ordered my new laptop and should be able to pick it up next time I swing by home (end of October). So, hooray for the new laptop! I miss you all and hope to see you again soon.

Lebanon, TN

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Welcome back to Lebanon, TN. It's been a while since I've beento the Lebanon Yard and it worked out that this was the best place for me to do a 34 hour reset (see Federal DOT regulations). The weather is nice and I managed to get my laundry done already so there's not much else to do now but just hang out. Yup. Hangin out. Just hangin. Oh yeah. Lovin' the hanging out.
Ok, so I am really bored right now. So much so that a 2 hour conversation in the laundry room with another driver about her metaphysical experiences was actually kinda fun. I don't really know of anything very entertaining to do near here, but I'm trying not to spend money anyway so I guess it's for the best. I am kinda burned out on cell phone chess (but John, if you are reading this, Queen's Knight to C3), and I'm just not in a reading mood at the moment. I don't feel like getting my bike down (it's strapped to the back of my truck cab) and there's no where to really walk to. The internet here is also very restricted. I had to bypass the firewall just to check my myspace messages.
(sigh)
I will probably end up grabbin' a comfy chair in the drivers' lounge and watch TV with everyone else. Meh. Oh well. Every day can't be an epoch adventure. I'm off to claim a few yards of cushy black leather reclining comfort. Adios.

Where I’ve been lately…

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Once again my laptop is out-of-order. This means updates will be spotty at best and the map on my blog will not necessarily be up to date. Luckily, I can still send photos with my phone, so people can have some idea of where I am at. Some email is being forwarded to my phone as well but I had to narrow it down to my top 20 most recent contacts as I was being inundated with bulk mail etc. Please feel free to give me a call if you are wondering why you haven't heard from me. It's been a stressful run these last few weeks, but I am not giving up. Thanks to everyone who has been there for me to talk to and especially to my mom who has helped me out of several (understatement) binds. Hope to hear from y'all soon.

I forgot to tell you about Santa Fe…

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Day 137
I have to apologize to those of you following my adventures for the lapse last week. I was having so much fun that I forgot that my internet bill was due and lost my truck-stop internet service and was thus sadly unable to post. Actually it didn't even occur to me until I was on my way to Flagstaff, AZ. Anyhow, here's a recap…

Point A-B: Tacoma, WA to Salt Lake City, UT
As discussed in previous posts, I was pulled into Tacoma for some remedial training. Luckily they were very understanding about the whole thing. Once I explained the situation and they witnessed some of my driving first hand, all doubts were put to rest and I was released to go back out on the road. This time though, I was armed with the hard learned lessons of the last 3-4 weeks, along with alot of new information from talking to the trainers and my Fleet Manager, Tracy (who totally rocks). The area I was especially eager to improve in was trip planning. There are so many unexpected things that can (and do) happen on any trip, that having a flexible but very thorough plan is crucial, as is executing that plan. Lots of good questions were met with lots of good answers. In addition to this aresenal of knowledge, I was also armed with what has proved to be one of my most valuable tools yet – a GPS navigation system. Halellujah! Thank you Mom & Nelson for letting me borrow it. My new favorite words are “recalculating route.” This tool allows me to instantly adjust to unexpected situations like closed roads, truck restricted roads, missing an exit or turn, etc. Before, any of those situations quickly became a crisis as I scramble to try to find a place to stop the truck (which is an adventure all its own) figure out where I am and come up with a new route to get me where I need to go. I still use Qualcom (company on-board computer), my Motor Carrier’s Atlas, and Microsoft Steets & Trips to plan my routes, but the GPS unit has improved how I execute them by 100x.
The third advantage I have had over this last leg was the weather. Absolutely beautiful. I was too busy savoring it to even take any pictures.
Point B-C: Salt Lake City, UT to Gallup, NM
On all my previous cross-country trips, I never considered state highways (the little red lines on the map) as viable routes. I always stuck to the interstates. This was the first trip where I had some significant miles to cover on state highways, and it completely changed the way I think about them. If a picture could have captured what I saw on this leg, I would have taken more. Unbelievable. If you are ever passing within 100 miles of this area, take the time to see Canyonlands, UT.
Canyonlands, UT
Soooo beautiful. I also made some new friends on this leg. Richard and Scott are a couple kids from Orange County (recently living in Salt Lake City) who were traveling the country with a couple of guitars, some camping gear, and two really big back packs. It was fun and refreshing to meet some like minds on the road.
Scott, Me, Richard
Point C-D: Gallup, Albequerque, & Santa Fe, NM
Getting back to work, my final delivery on this load was at a construction site. This made things a little tricky as the address didn’t officially exist yet, and the roads into the site were somewhat less than ideal (i.e. unpaved). In addition, there was some disagreement between my company and the person recieving the load as to whether this was to be a “live unload” (they unload the trailer while I wait) or a “dropped trailer” (I unhook the trailer and go). Aparently these guys lost one of our trailers. Anyways, I ended up dropping the trailer and bobtailing (i.e. no trailer) to Albequerque, NM to pick up an empty trailer etc. etc.
Point D-E Santa Fe, NM to Flagstaff, AZ
More beautiful weather. I am also very proud of myself for making good use of my time on this run. The extra knowledge and the GPS unit have really been paying off. I spent the night in Arizona parked next to a Taco Bell off route 66. Watched as the sun set behind silouhetted statues of dinosaurs. Sunsets in Arizona are truly glorious. Picked up a load in Flagstaff. Purina dog food. That concrete tower with the Purina chex logo is hard to miss from I-40.
Point E-F: Flagstaff, AZ to Red Bluff, CA
Easy driving and beautiful weather all the way to California.
I never thought I would love Barstow so much. It is a trucker’s paradise when it comes to fast food within walking distance of your truck. I splurged and got some Panda Express and an ice-cream cone. I gotta reward myself occasionally. Makes keeping a tight budget worth it.
Next day out of Barstow, CA, more beautiful easy driving. Windows down. Stereo cranked. Man. This is why I love this job.
Footnote: there was a little incident in Bakersfield at a fuel stop involving the DOT bumper of my trailer and the front bumper of a Peterbilt truck. Luckily the driver was really nice about it and we joked a little as we both filled out our respective paperwork for the incident. Man. I hope this doesn’t put me back in training.
Summary
So there you have it. It’s been a great week, and I can only hope the next few days will go as smoothly!

The Distance

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Day 127
It's lonely time again. Just one of the things I go through being on the road all the time. All part of the territory. It also is a good reminder to me that I need to find another line of work as soon as I get ahead again financially. The adventure has been worth it but this is not the life style for me. It puts a strain on relationships, making some hard an others just not even realisticly possible. I was reminded of that today. Sobering. I need to sink some roots again when this is done. Get my life back. This is no way to live. It can be fun, and rewarding, memorable, great for telling stories, pretty good for the finances, but it's hell on my social life. I knew it would be, but it's one thing to sort of “know” ahead of time, and to really “know” by experiencing it present tense. I am not sure about Portland either. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Portland. But I miss home. I miss my friends. I miss familiar places that I know better than any other. I guess though, absence makes the hearrt grow fonder. At least in some cases. I'd be lying to say I wasn't a lttle down, but don't worry dear reader. I have hope for the future, and I know I will feel better tomorrow. It's just one of those things.

North to the Future

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Day 22
The past weeks have taken me in a circular tour of the States: Tacoma, WA to Lebanon, TN to Kansas City, MO to somewhere I forget the name of in Iowa, back to Los Angeles, CA, and now up to Portland, OR (via Troutdale, OR) and tomorrow back up to Tacoma, WA. I have finally become confidant enough in my driving to relax a bit and take in my surroundings. I think it was today that it really hit me the hardest as I drove past Mt. Shasta in Northern California…this is my job. I drive, listening to good music, with an ever changing view out my “office” window that rivals the most posh corner office in any corporate building anywhere. I have gone from working in the basement (the window-less basement) at a government office job (though I admit it was very satisfying) to working (if you can call it that) behind the steering wheel of truck whose windows look out on more scenery in a week than many people see in their lifetime. If money mattered, I might add that I am making about the same pay as I did at my office job. Not to mention the perks – No dress code. No politics. Work at your own pace, so long as the work gets done on time. Tired? Pull over and take a nap. Jealous yet? Wait 'till you see the pictures.
Granted, this life isn't for everyone. It's like being on tour minus the concerts. I am still adjusting. The first week was really hard. I wasn't sure I would make it. I lived the first week not knowing when or where I would drive, eat, sleep, pee, or shower next left me feeling clausterphobic. I slept with all my belongings crammed into my bunk with me (many I was discovering I really didn't need, while I desperately needed some items I failed to bring along) and I never seemed to have time to get my bearings, figure out what I needed and continue. Always moving. Meanwhile loose ends I left back home were still not tied up, deadlines were aprouching, late fee's accumulating etc. I felt like I was suffocating, drowning, stranded, and lost all at once.
The good news is this feeling didn't last. I passed a breaking point somewhere along the line and things began to change. It felt like learning to swim (I wonder how many people remember what that felt like?) Now I am driving confidentally, getting food when I need it (even if my trainer only eats once or maybe twice a day…crazy…still don't know how he can do that), getting used to sleeping when I need to, and very much looking forward to having my own truck and not having to worrie about all this stuff anymore. Just 80 hours of drive time to go! Then I get my own place. This is more of a releaf than moving out of my parents house for the first time.
That's about it for now – I promise I will get some actual trucker stories in here soon.

Hello, Nashville…it’s been a long time.

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Day 1
Today I flew to Nashville, TN where I will begin my training. The company’s yard is actually located in Lebanon, TN (about 30 minutes east of Nashville) and I am booked at a hotel not far from there. There’s a strange coincidence about where I am staying though. Nine years ago when I was on the road with the religous rock group Plankeye I stayed for about a week at the hotel across the street from where I am now during the 1998 Gospel Music Awards and again later on during the tour. I ate at the same restraunts and everything. I distinctly remember my experiance at the Waffle House right next door. It’s kinda crazy. Of all the places I could end up I land right next to the place I spent the most time during my touring years.
So here I am in this clean little room at the Best Value Inn just off Interstate 40. It’s clean, it’s quiet, it’s not home, and I am trying to get myself to go to bed. I guess the most unsettling thing about places like this is that there’s no one around. There is a noticable absense of human bodies anywhere near my room. When I cannot see, hear, or otherwise sense other people around me, I get a little uneasy. It’s like the opposite of that phobia of crowds (can’t remember the name). It makes the silence in this room somewhat oppressive. I hate leaving things like music or TV on just for the sake of noise, but I may resort to that just so I can sleep. Tomorrow is a big day. My first day employed by a truck driving company.