Step Seven: Humility
In step six , I identified character defects such as one’s bad or destructive habits.
We learned these habits can not only be bad for us and our business, but also for those around us. By identifying bad or harmful habits, we learned they can keep us from having real success.
Listing defects — actually naming them — does psychological magic. It helps remove roadblocks and allows us to be ready to let destructive habits go. This requires help from our faith and trusted mentors. At the end of step six, we ask for all of these defects to be removed by utilizing a higher power.
Step seven is all about humility. By successfully completing steps one through six, a degree of humility has already been introduced. Actually, it is the basis of the entire 12-step process. Asking for help and utilizing a higher power while exploring and defining one’s defects are all acts of humility. One must be humble in order to maintain an even keel and remain committed to the process. One cannot be truly happy without some level of humility. “Humility” is a confusing word, and its meaning is often misunderstood. It is not synonymous with the word “humiliation.”
Humiliation means losing one’s dignity and self-respect, while humility means having a “modest opinion of one’s own importance.” Humility is the opposite of arrogance, assumption and personal pride. The arrogant know-it-all who thinks only of himself or herself is not a healthy business leader. On the other hand, humiliation can lead to humility. Inappropriate behavior and actions that you are ashamed of can lead to humility. Humility can serve us well, while egotistical thinking can get us in trouble.
Unfortunately, our society often encourages arrogance and celebrates those egocentric people who acquire vast wealth, power, popularity and material goods. Those same people who idolize the ones they’ve “anointed” are often the first to express glee when the very people they’ve told us to admire fall from grace, and their personal failings are uncovered. Once a person’s weaknesses are exposed, admirers admonish or demonize that person and move on to anoint another.
I’ll never forget when a friend of mine held a meeting to sell a real estate deal. Upon his return from the meeting, he described his presentation, stating he was really “on the mark” as the group of potential investors listened intently to his every word. He then said, “I was so good that I started to believe my own bullsh*t.”
Building up a false image of one’s self can lead to a number of psychological and relationship problems. Being real with yourself is key; it requires being humble and knowing you are a unique creation of nature, but not superior to other creations of your type and species.
We must always ask ourselves questions like, “When I’m starting my new business, do I really need a new, expensive company car? Is that practicing humility and fiscal responsibility? Do we need the office in the high-rent district, or will a nice facility in a modest location do just as well?” Locating to a high-rent district may be good for your ego, but it also tells customers that they are paying for the high rent when they buy from you.
“Do I listen to my employees’ ideas without completely dismissing them? Do I really know it all? How well do I know this business, and how can my employees contribute to its success?”
It is critical to hear out employees’ ideas and discuss reasons action could or could not be taken on those ideas. It’s just as important to listen to our customers and suppliers. It requires practicing humility, as do most thoughts and actions you will take during a business day or on the weekends with family.
Humility is not just a step to be taken and then forgotten. Rather, it is a lifelong process. Humility needs to be practiced on a daily basis. Today, I promise to take my own advice. Like many, I am still working on “that humility thing.”
Also published in BIC magazine.
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