My Take

Inferiority complex can be useful too

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 3:41am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 5:10am

So, this is the latest pop recipe for success: having a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control. It's being advocated by tiger mum Amy Chua and her husband and fellow Yale law professor Jed Rubenfeld.

I haven't read their book The Triple Package - too many other books ahead of the queue in my shelves already - so I can't comment on it. But interestingly, my fellow Post writer Kelly Yang was horrified by it, and duly produced a widely-read column that has attracted more reader responses than most of the stuff I produce. That makes me jealous.

Then Financial Times' famed office-politics guru Lucy Kellaway wrote approvingly yesterday about the combination. Actually, I consider the three attributes a pretty good description of many successful people I have come across and/or read about. Needless to say, they are almost all pretty unpleasant characters, and I would say not a single one of them was really happy. As a parent, I just don't want to make it a prescription for producing successful children.

I once had an excellent news editor who almost fit the bill. He was clearly deeply insecure, about himself and his job, and not without reason. He exercised monumental self-control on most days of the week during the years I worked under him. He was a falling drunk, one of those who frequently lose all sense of time and place after a night of bingeing on alcohol and have no memory of what they did the night before. Yet, he was always - and I do mean always - the first one in the office early in the morning and the last to leave. Sleep was optional to him. He worked like a dog and those long hours in the office were probably the only time he had a sense of purpose in life. Once he stepped out of the office, that purpose was gone.

He scored two out of three in Chua and Rubenfeld's formula. I suspect deep down, he felt inferior to a few elite journalists who went to better schools than he did, worked for more prestigious publications and had higher-profile assignments; hence his need to prove himself.

Do I consider him a success? He always managed to hire the prettiest reporters who inevitably developed a fierce loyalty in him. I admire him as a journalist. I just don't want to be like him.