Most of my career has been spent working with or around sales people. Sales is a weird gig because you are taught to be competitive and outshine your colleagues in order to be paid incentives that are standard in the industry.
This obsession with competitiveness and incentives destroys any chance we have of using humility to advance our lives and achieve our goals. Selfishness, competition and destroying others so that you can win does not let you do anything you want in life.
I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit thinking about what the one trait is in life that I’d like to study, understand and one day master. I’ve watched documentaries, read books and consumed a stupid number of blog posts trying to work it out.
The word humility came up plenty of times, but that wasn’t enough. I compiled a list of everyone I know or have met who basically does whatever the hell they want in life and then put their lives through the filter of humility. Essentially, when all was said and done, what I was looking to understand was whether each of them was humble or not.
As well as testing each of their lives against the filter of humility, I also considered other traits such as confidence, intelligence, kindness, net-worth, self-esteem — the list was long and every time I’d find at least one person that didn’t tick the box.
The only answer that was true for every person who did whatever they wanted in their lives was that they were humble.
Ever since this experiment, I’ve hired people in my career based on their humility.
When I’ve looked at working with new people, I’ve also used the same filter of humility.
And when it comes to building one new skill for this year, I’ve put all my energy into understanding one question: How can I be more humble?
The opposite of being humble is to let your ego control your life and that has many downsides.
Here are the advantages of humility:
You are able to work in a team
Your ego tells you that you are the best.
Humility tells you that no success worth achieving can be done in isolation. Working with other people creates far bigger results and it’s heaps more fun. The problem is ego kills teamwork.
When your goal is to win at all costs to benefit yourself, you end up crushing everybody else you encounter to get there.
When you’re humble, you understand that not everything is about you. You go from selfish to selfless.
You will learn to question everything
There are very few things in life that are absolute.
Humility teaches you to remain open-minded and understand two crucial facts: You don’t know everything, you will be wrong an awful lot, and the acceptance of this reality will help you not to block the insights you need to grow as a person.
Questioning the world you live in removes the idea of your self being the center of the universe and everything revolving around it.
The universe doesn’t revolve around you. You are a tiny dot, here for a short time, to do something remarkable, and then die having taught a few people something useful along the way that will cause them to remember you at the end of their own existence.
You will grow
You can’t grow when you believe that you have already arrived and are better than everybody else.
If you are already at the top and know everything, how do you find ways to grow? You don’t. You believe you already have all the skills, know all the answers and have learned everything you need to learn. Being humble is the rejection of this reality.
Humility teaches you what you need to work on and that leads to growth.
You will be able to be a chameleon
The reason humble people can do whatever they want in life is that they can change and adapt to different situations.
One minute they can be a leader, and the next minute, they can do the hard work of someone in a support role or wash the dishes without getting upset or pissed off.
Chameleons change roles in life and are flexible, nimble and willing to do whatever it takes. Flexibility leads us to discover people and opportunities that would have otherwise been hidden from us, which end up giving us the life where we can do whatever we want.
If you are too proud of where you are in life, then you’ll stay stuck exactly where you are.
People will assume you are too proud to try something else or do the hard work and so it will become your own demise, eventually, if you continue to ignore it.
You are aware of your own faults
We all have various flaws in our lives and when you’re humble, you don’t hide these flaws from yourself or from anybody else.
Accepting your flaws gives you a chance to work on them and help others learn from them as well. Knowing what you are not good at is just as important as knowing what areas of your life you excel at.
When you discover a flaw, you have two options:
- Acknowledge the flaw and work to fix it
- Embrace the flaw and decide it’s something you are going to live with
Thinking you have no flaws, though, is where it all turns to a messy lemon tart that has been hit by two-hundred medium sized vehicles in a row.
You do have flaws and that’s okay.
You will think twice about how you describe your own success
When people describe their success as being all about them and what they have achieved, they are not being humble.
Whatever you achieve, someone, somewhere, will have helped you get there either directly or indirectly.
Humble people describe their success as being an outcome of many people’s inputs as opposed to solely their own.
Once you truly start to explore humility, you will no longer describe your success in the same way. Finally, you’ll acknowledge other people and that is a beautiful thing that will connect you to more future successes.
Getting the balance right
Here’s what being humble is not:
- Lacking confidence
- Being weak
- Being selfish
Humbleness is a quiet confidence that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Humility is letting your actions and your results do the talking rather than your ego. You are still confident when you are humble; you just don’t pretend that it’s all about you — because it’s not.
Confidence is believing in yourself and not thinking you are the best. When you believe in yourself and you are humble about what you can do, you find a balance that attracts people to what you’re doing and makes them want to help you.
Humility links all the good stuff together
It turns out that the people who are humble and do whatever they want in life are also respected, kind, can lead people, are selfless and are not so stressed out.
Humility is a trait that becomes the foundation of other similar traits that when combined, make us someone people want to know and have in their lives.
If you can find your own path to humility, you can discover what it takes to be a true human being that possesses the sort of qualities that allow one to do whatever they want in life and be fulfilled at the end of it all.
I’m not there yet, but every day I’m working on possessing more and more humility. So far, it has been a game-changer in every phase of my life — and I’m only just getting started.
When you make your life about more than you, it gives your life a different and fresh meaning. Humility is a journey that takes you on a path to discover what it means to be human and how you can leave the world better than you found it.
The path to humility is the path to understanding why you are here in the first place and on a deeper level, the biggest question of them all: What is the meaning of life?
Start with humility.