Some of you that know me are wondering how I could write such a post. Humility has not always been my most evident trait. (That would be an understatement John!) But as they say, those who can't do, teach! :)
But my ego and self obsession have been down-sized over the years. I have been humbled by the world around me. Not sure it is seen by others, not sure I truly care. But I have made a concious effort to keep my hunger for self adulation in check.
I am humbled every day by the needs of others, by the potential of the human spirit, by the unknown and the unknowable. I am in awe of everyone I meet for their uniquenness. For I used to under-estimate others and over-estimate myself. If I am aware I am filled with humility.
As I started to become more self-aware, more authentic with myself, and more open to the world around me--I could not help but see how insignificant I am. That my relevance is tied to others. And to my pursuit of larger purposes and questions than myself. That the truth about education is the more you learn the more you discover what you don't know.
Always cracks me up, that some people think that getting another degree will clarify things for them--that they will obtain more certainty about their lives (not just their jobs/careers) If done well, education confuses the student more, in a good way. Education enables you to ask better questions. But I digress....
Don't be so humble you are not that great. Golda Meier
True humility is not an act. It is the real sense of your self importance in the bigger scheme of things--however you define it. It is toning down our arrogance and our sense of certainty. It is a realization that you are not the center of the universe.
I remember when I was 19 years old and I was completing a medical intake form for the first time by myself. It asked for my religion. I thought that was irrelevant, so I wrote "Protagonism". To my surprise the doctor inquired about my stated faith. I said. "I believe I am the main character of my story." Another failed attempt at Kobara humor:)
But we can be so deluded by our own individual perspective.
David Foster Wallace mused about this in his famous commencement address:
Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.
One strange manifestation of this self-centeredness, is our unwillingness to reveal what we need to work on in our lives. Our inability to embrace what we need to know, learn and understand-- the way we are taught to address our weaknesses.
Popular career guidance sources preach "turn your weaknesses into strengths". When you network or interview you are supposed to provide these types of answers or assert these types of thoughts, when asked, "What areas are you trying to improve upon?"
"I am a perfectionist. I want work to hard and too long to get things just right."
"I love to work too much. I am a work-aholic."
"I let others take the credit for the work I do. I don't assert myself enough."
For whatever reason, this is now SOP for many folks. They robotically say these things that have been commoditized and therefore regress to the mean instead of differentiating themselves.
I have found that more than 50% of students, networkers, job seekers--in my unscientific networking study--say they are stumped by a direct question about their "weaknesses". They literally say, "I don't know what to say." "I'll have to think about it." "Wow, that is a good question."
To have no weaknesses is not a sign of strength, but a sign of ignorance and even arrogance.
To me, this shows a hollowness, an emptiness, an immaturity and an abject lack of self awareness that repels potential opportunities.
A truthful, insightful answer that reveals the person's desire to improve is an endangered species.
Showing our vulnerability to others is seen as a weakness, but we know the opposite is true.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Brene Brown
How do I balance my strengths and show my upside as well?
How do I express my qualifications and my competencies as well as my desire to learn and improve?
That they need me as much I need them.
How can opportunities be mutually beneficial arrangements where all parties have clear objectives to help each other?
This is the way the best networking and mentoring work. The reciprocity. The trust that exposes the needs and resources of both sides.
Humility is grounded in the understanding that the tip of the iceberg of your knowledge is dwarfed by what lies around and beneath you.
When people know what you need and want, they can help you.
It takes courage to know your needs. It takes real courage to ask for help.
More David Foster Wallace: Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
Listen more than you talk. Be prepared to give without expectations before you self promote. Put the needs of others before your own.
Then you will see that you are not the center of the universe but at the center of opportunity.
Thanks for reading. John