History is filled with tales of adventurous exploits and astonishing accomplishments performed by confident individuals. In fact, one might say that history is most often made by those possessed with extraordinary confidence. However, just as often, history is replete with stories of extraordinary failures and cocky blunders, committed by persons with perhaps too much self-assurance. So if you are like most of us who daily struggle with confidence issues, take heart; you may not become a famous adventurer or Nobel Prize candidate, but neither are you likely to have your embarrassing mistakes recorded by history and gain infamy as one of the world's greater boobs.
Below are a few true events illustrating a perhaps inflated degree of bravura, inspired by the over-confident, the arrogant and the foolhardy.
Can you say hubris? During a period referred to as "Red Cloud's War", in the winter of 1866, Captain William J. Fetterman boasted that with a mere 80 men, he could "ride through the whole Sioux Nation," an enemy he ridiculed as being beneath his regard. Fetterman, a cocky young officer twice cited for bravery during the American Civil War, led his command of 81 men into a Sioux ambush on December 21, 1866. Every member of his command (including Fettermen himself) was killed. So much for stereotypes …
Stick to what you know. U.S. President Richard Nixon should have displayed more confidence in his ability as a presidential candidate but instead mistakenly chose to have greater confidence in his sub-ordinates' abilities as cat burglars. In what came to be infamously known as the Watergate Scandal, five men working for Richard Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President broke in to the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in an effort to sabotage Democratic candidate George McGovern's chances against Nixon in the upcoming election. The burglary and the resulting scandal eventually led to Nixon's resigning, rather than facing the disgrace of impeachment. Ironically Nixon was far ahead of McGovern in the polls at the time of the break-in, and ended up winning the election in a landslide, making the Watergate Scandal one of history's most pointless political blunders.
Overdrawn at the memory bank. While many are over-confident in their abilities, comic legend W. C Fields displayed a little too much confidence in one particular ability - his less than perfect memory. In order to have convenient access to his funds wherever he traveled, the comedian is said to have opened bank accounts in all the cities that he frequently visited. In typical comedic fashion, Fields opened the accounts using humorous pseudonyms. Unfortunately he lost track of all the cities, banks and names that he used. Upon his death, an estimated 1.3 million dollars was left unclaimed in accounts that he had forgotten.
A slight miscalculation. In 1977, the reigning powers at 20th Century Fox exhibited way too much confidence in their deal-making abilities, and far too little in director George Lucas' filmmaking and business savvy. In exchange for a mere twenty thousand dollar pay cut, the then executives signed over all product merchandising rights for the current and all future Star Wars films to Lucas. The combined revenue from merchandising is estimated to have exceeded three billion dollars, and continues to grow annually, making it the most lucrative deal ever struck between an individual and a corporate studio in entertainment history.
Perhaps a career change is in order? Forest Kelly Bissonnette obviously over-estimated his own criminal intellect when in the commission of a bank robbery, he drafted the hold-up note on one of his own personalized checks. Astonishingly, he had the foresight to attempt to black out his name. Unfortunately for the hapless fugitive, FBI agents were easily able to glean the information from the back of the check and Bissonette was eventually apprehended.
Yesterday, all his troubles seemed so far away…. After a long successful marriage to his first wife, widower Paul McCartney still believed that love didn't require a pre-nuptual when he walked down the isle with Heather Mills on June 11, 2002. As one of the world's richest men, the wedding was no small affair, costing approximately $3.2 million. It would end up costing Sir Paul a heck of a lot more, when the couple announced their separation on May 17, 2006, less than four years after the marriage. With no pre-nuptual in sight, Heather and her lawyers aggressively went after half of his fortune, which is estimated to be almost half a billion dollars. Eventually, the judge ruled and awarded Heather Mills a mere 48$ million of Sir Paul's approximate $500 million dollar worth. Still, one wonders if the former Beatle will confidently take another marital vow sans-prenup. While it may be true that all you need is love, it never hurts to have a good lawyer.
Can you say hubris, again? In February 44 BC, Julius Caesar declared himself dictator for life. On March 14, 44 BC he was assassinated. 'Nuff said.