“Humility is the most over-rated of human emotions.”
So says Harvey Mackay in his book, “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”, and Mackay is a very well respected author and businessman.
When I read that, I was horrified. The people I admire all have a degree of humility about them – along with integrity, it’s one of the things that I think are fundamental to living a good life.
Cultural historian Warren Susman talks about the difference between a Culture of Personality and a Culture of Character. A person who is personality-based focuses on what other people think of them, whereas someone motivated by the character ethic is more driven by their internal morals and values.
Mackay calling humility “over-rated” led me to initially dismiss his book as personality-led, and so not for me … but I kept reading, and found this passage:
“How can you be any good unless you think you can accomplish what you’re not supposed to be able to accomplish?”
There is definite truth in that sentiment, too. If you’re trying to improve yourself, you have to believe you can go out there and get it done. Yes, you can still go about things in a humble way, but you will also need to be bold at times. You’ll need to move out of your comfort zone (the only way to get better at something). You’ll need to be prepared to step up and lead. You’ll need to be prepared to take the hits that will inevitably come your way.
I still think that saying “humility is the most over-rated of human emotions” is over-stating it, but perhaps there is a place for bold humility? Don’t be a dick and get in everyone’s face. But while we are being grateful, and humble, we also need to remember that to get what we really want, sometimes we have to stand up and be bold.
There are some obvious examples – Gandhi, MLK, Mandela – they all maintained their humility, and were also bold enough to stand up for what they believed in.
Bold humility … give it a shot, and let me know how you get on.