Choosing the path of humility

392925625_7cffa6f736 There has been quite a bit of chatter about personal brands lately. Stirring the pot, one can tell by comments and spin-off posts which egos are hurt the most. As the year winds down, these egos will have a hurrah by featuring their 2009 predictions. This pish posh is not what is garnering my attention. Recently, I stumbled across a post about grace. That same day in my Reader, I devoured The Buzz Binn article on being a good steward. (I must admit the graphic in the latter post has always fired me up!)

So, in line with that thinking and the roots of this very blog, I ask you think upon humility….the opposite of pride and ego…as we close out 2008 and ready ourselves to implement our grandiose 2009 strategies. The term “humility” is derived from the Latin word “humilis”, which is translated not only as humble but also alternatively as “low”, or “from the earth”, and “humus”. I prefer Kant’s interpretation from the religious definitions as “that meta-attitude which constitutes the moral agent’s proper perspective on himself as a dependent and corrupt but capable and dignified rational agent.”

This year, we saw politicians use self-deprecating humor or false humility to grasp attention and to prove themselves one of the people. We see the same behavior displayed by many companies delving into social media or of those personal brands not always getting it right. The study of such mental conditioning may have led to the phrase originally coined by François de La Rochefoucauld, “humility is the worst form of conceit.”

How can you determine who is true? The wisdom of realizing one’s own ignorance is a tough pill to swallow…for anyone. There cannot be authenticity without humility.

  • Take responsibility. This does not mean take the limelight…sometimes it is best to step aside and shut-up.
  • Be accountable.
  • Admit sometimes others are right.
  • Ask for feedback. Follow through on such feedback.
  • Recognize others.
  • Treat others with respect.

Are you ready to admit your shortcomings? Is your company? Are you ready to humbly ask your character defects be removed? Will you walk this path in 2009? The answer lies within you and is reflected in every action. Humility is essential before you can listen; before you can talk; before you can just BE. Choose humility and you choose the path of open-mindedness and curiosity.

(Photo courtesy Mathieu_Struck.)

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  • Todd

    Good advice.
    I can add to both the onomatology of the word humility as well as Lauren’s whole “personal brand” thread.
    The above citation to the Latin is correct, but this is one of those rare occasions where the root is even older. We are all aware of the Roman empire’s expansion to the far corners of the globe, and upon return from the East they encountered the practice of sleeping on the floor, even the wealthy, who had the means to buy a bed. In order to describe this foreign practice the word humilis was given additional meaning.
    To this day, traditional Japanese homes have simple mats on the floor ( “low”, “from the earth” ) for sleeping. This is a cultural inheritance of Japan’s Buddhism.
    “Take the lowest place, and you shall reach the highest.” – Milarepa
    Also, with regards, and a bit of irony, to the personal brand rancor – Seems to me many personal brand obsessed people spend a lot of time fine tuning their social media profile picture, also known as an “Avatar”…
    The word “Avatar” is a Sanskrit word, meaning literally “coming down from far away.” or “Coming down with the approval of the higher source from which it came and with benefit to the place at which it arrives.” (From Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit Dictionary.)
    …So ya’ll need to get off your high horse, stop worrying about your “personal brand”, show some humility and learn to listen!

  • Lauren Vargas

    Todd, you always have a way of wording things… ;)

  • Geoff Livingston

    I love my avatars. Zay make me happy… Zee my new one here:

  • Vicki Davis

    I love this post — it is beautiful in a world of “me me” “I I” – etc.
    Words like “personal brand” and “rock star” and “becoming famous” are not only tiresome – they get me as a blogger off focus. I think this post is great. For those of us who have a mission, it lets us move the “me” out of of the way and move towards the “us” and the purpose and the mission that we should be working towards.
    Thank you for a lovely post.

  • Shelley

    Lauren, thank you for this timely and thought-provoking post.

  • Myron

    This is a great tip.