Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.
– C.S. Lewis
From my primary blog, here.
As I pondered writing about humility, it occurred to me that it may seem an unusual choice for a topic. This blog has focused on getting ahead in life and achieving great things; many of the topics speak about grabbing success from life’s firm grip and working harder than anyone else. I realize now, however, that the mere fact that humility would seem to be counter to such behaviors is actually the exact reason it makes a worthwhile topic of discussion.
Seeing the Forest Beyond Your Own Tree
Speaking on matters of business and financial success, no person has ever achieved anything in life alone. In fact, it’s impossible. For accomplishment to have meaning, there must, at least, be someone else around to validate the success. Achievement requires external recognition to have impact.
Perhaps an example will serve me better:
Imagine you are a potter. You spend every day turning at a wheel and creating beautiful works of art. Let’s go one step farther and assume that it could—somehow—be proven objectively that yours is the greatest talent in the world. Regarding your financial viability, however, none of this has any meaning without paying customers. No matter how extraordinary are your creations and your talent, you won’t be able to keep the lights on without customers.
Humility is the ability to recognize the value of others while being more honest and objective about our own capacity. A potter who realizes she needs a paying customer base will go farther (again, financially) than an artist who creates for his own musings and considers his work above critique. Yes, there are those incredibly-rare examples, but understand that, statistically, such people effectively do not exist. Incidentally, I challenge you to prove me wrong and inspire the world around you by so doing, if you feel called.
Humility is Essential for Growth and Adaptation
Every business and every individual must adapt to their environment to survive. When you research the most successful companies and people, you’ll observe a trend: a remarkable ability to recognize their strengths, minimize their weaknesses, and change with the times. There is no one that is “too big to fail”, and that same rule scales from the largest corporation down to the youngest child.
Interestingly, there’s another common thread that I’ve observed in the most-experienced and sought-after experts I know: genuine humility. Perhaps my experience will not match yours, but those I know who have the greatest depth of knowledge in their fields are always the first to admit when they don’t understand something. This essential characteristic allows them to learn and grow without pride overcoming good sense. When we admit we have more to learn, we create an opportunity to become greater.
Just as importantly, the people I would label as “experts” are also in high demand. Maybe it is counter-intuitive or ironic, but that humility only makes them more attractive to customers. A knowledgeable professional that speaks down to her clients is affronting. Understandably, most people want to be respected, and a humble expert with the heart of a teacher listens, learns, and educates.
Acknowledge your weaknesses, recognize room for improvement, and find a mentor. Learn and practice humility, and you will watch your value grow almost exponentially.
Thank you for your time.