Recently I struck up a conversation with a young man who is interning at the office of our real estate brokerage. We were both on our way out and started chatting in the lobby. I began to wax eloquent (probably unsolicited—what can I say? I love to teach!) on my experience in real estate, what it means to me and my family to work for myself, and the excitement I felt over the tremendous growth I’d experienced.
So this young guy asked me then if we could get coffee together, and I was excited to oblige him.
When we finally sat down at the ‘Bucks (you can use that awesome slang if you want, just give me cred…) he asked me after a while, very simply, “If you had to share just one thing that helped you get to where you are, what would it be?”
I thought for only a moment and then heard myself blurt out, unplanned, “Humility.” Well, I’m sure that’s not what he expected, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what I expected either. But as I talked with him more—and as I’ve reflected on it since—I’ve come to the conclusion that the spirit of humility is behind possibly every good decision I’ve made, and every substantial step forward that I’ve enjoyed.
The spirit of Humility says “I might not know,” which opens you up to learning. Pride says, “I know enough,” which sets you up to either learn something the hard way, or learn nothing at all. Either way, I’ll pass.
The spirit of Humility endears you to others. It earns their respect, their trust. When I first meet someone, if they’re quick to tell me how awesome they are, my tendency will be to assume the opposite. However, when someone else sings the praises of an individual to me, my tendency is to believe them. Plain and simple. Me telling you that I’m awesome is worth far less than your friend telling you I’m awesome. Wouldn’t you agree?
The spirit of Humility takes responsibility, anticipating growth. Pride must preserve itself, rejecting criticism. Pride says, “It’s not my fault.” Humility says, “How can I improve so that the results change next time?”
The practical results are obvious and yet incredibly important: the prideful person—self-insulated from responsibility, scrutiny or criticism—doesn’t grow, doesn’t improve, they’re stuck in the mud if not moving backward. The humble person sees every event as an opportunity for growth. The humble person is comfortable with the fact that there are still things they just don’t know.
Through my personal journey, I’ve gone from fearful, wounded pride that was self-obsessed and bent on flailing self-preservation, to a person who is comfortable in my own skin, not driven by fear, but driven by the abundance mindset, and therefore free to pour my time, energy, even money, into helping others.
Allow me to clarify: humility isn’t weakness, it isn’t low self-esteem. Author Ralph Sockman says, “True humility is intelligent self-respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves.” I like that. True humility is intelligent.
It isn’t pride that allows us to contribute to others’ lives. It is humility.
It isn’t pride that fortifies us as great men and women. It is humility.
In what ways have you seen true humility open doors? In what ways can true humility make you a giant?
G0-To Resource: The book Leadership and Self-Deception is eye-opening with regards to the role that humility plays in leadership. I can’t recommend this enthusiastically enough: it’s a quick, easy read, about a manager whose own perceived self-importance is challenged. The crux of the message is how powerfully humility can transform an individual and a team as a whole. Click here to grab a copy!