Exercising Humility

Exercising Humility

January 25, 2019 6 Comments

"If I tell you I’m good, you’ll say that I’m boasting. But if I tell you I’m not good, you’ll know I’m lying.” - Bruce Lee

There is an interesting relationship between confidence, humility, and success. On the one hand, being humble keeps a person grounded and helps them to continue to work hard. But without enough confidence, they will never dare to do anything great. Whether it be in athletics, business, or anything else, there seems to be an ideal balance of the two that lends itself to being successful.

Lack of Humility and Failure

Speaking from personal experience, I have seen it all too often and have even fallen victim to it myself: A confident fighter goes on a winning streak and starts to believe their own hype. They take on an air of invincibility and think they simply cannot be beaten. Eventually, this is proven untrue, and often in the most spectacularly embarrassing way.

So why is it that pride so often leads to the fall? Is it cosmic karma that eventually catches up to those that get too cocky? Perhaps. Or maybe being overconfident leads a person to forgo the efforts that made them successful in the first place.

I recently had a great conversation on the matter with Evan Hafer, CEO of Black Rifle Coffee, and by all accounts a very successful, soldier, family fan, and entrepreneur...

One of the most impressive things about him is his ability to stay humble in spite of his accomplishments. In our chat, he revealed a mindset that takes nothing for granted, because nothing in life is guaranteed. From what I have seen, this seems to be a common belief held by him and his Special Forces brethren. It bears in mind that at any point, things can change for the worse, whether from our actions or reasons beyond our control.

An optimistic nihilism of sorts, it acknowledges the possibility of failure while maintaining the confidence to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and start again from scratch. It is this belief which can compel someone to keep working hard when they are successful, and to not give up when they fall short.


I have the absolute confidence not to be number two, but then I have enough sense to realize that there can be no number one.” - Bruce Lee


Another avenue to balance confidence with humility is derived from who we surround ourselves with. Whenever we are humbled by failure, it is vital to have someone who can both tell us “shake it off” and teach us how to correct our mistakes. This allows us to rebuild the confidence necessary to strive toward our goals. Without it, our failures and self-loathing can compound until we shrivel into a shell of our former selves.

To quote Alfred from Batman Begins, “Why do we fall? So that we learn how to pick ourselves back up.” The key here is having the confidence to know you are capable of bouncing back. This is the intersection where humility and confidence overlap to breed success.


One of the best ways I have found to subdue my own hubris, is to fail regularly on a small scale. There few other paths to swallowing one's pride, than getting your ass handed to you on the mat or in the gym. But in doing so, it affords the opportunity to experience real humility, not the humble facade we sometimes project. On a personal level, it also allows me to asses and acknowledge my faults in an area of minimal real-world consequence.

These little ego checks serve as a reminder that without failure, there can be no growth. Believe in yourself, eat your humble pie when it is served, and remember that the only way to get out of a hole is to climb.



6 Responses

nscott Buisch
nscott Buisch

March 04, 2019

Truer words were never spoken , had my ass handed back to me in more than one way , life and business. Rock on brothers, keep your powder dry.

Zack
Zack

March 04, 2019

If I might humbly leave a thought for chewing on?

I would suggest that it might be possible to have confidence and humility to coincide simultaneously during and through failure; not an opposing yin yang balance. Here’s how I suggest its fruition: often, as men, our identity and who we are intertwined with what we do. It is the first question a man asks at introduction; " What do you do?" If our identity, how and who we and others perceive ourselves as failures or successes, based on what we have done is our identity, it will be a constant yoyo battle. Rather I’d propose to start construction on who we are out of materials other than our failures and successes. If we as men can see ourselves and others for who they are, not what is done, then the blending of confidence and humility will remain much more stable in my opinion. Each man must decide who he is outside of his accomplishments and failures; or we are doomed to repeatedly rise and fall in phycologically rather than physically.

I respectfully submit this thought for chewing, and in no way want to down play or belittle anyone. It is an aspiration of mine, not a correction of you.

Zack
Zack

March 04, 2019

If I might humbly leave a thought for chewing on?

I would suggest that it might be possible to have confidence and humility to coincide simultaneously during and through failure; not an opposing yin yang balance. Here’s how I suggest its fruition: often, as men, our identity and who we are intertwined with what we do. It is the first question a man asks at introduction; " What do you do?" If our identity, how and who we and others perceive ourselves as failures or successes, based on what we have done is our identity, it will be a constant yoyo battle. Rather I’d propose to start construction on who we are out of materials other than our failures and successes. If we as men can see ourselves and others for who they are, not what is done, then the blending of confidence and humility will remain much more stable in my opinion. Each man must decide who he is outside of his accomplishments and failures; or we are doomed to repeatedly rise and fall in phycologically rather than physically.

I respectfully submit this thought for chewing, and in no way want to down play or belittle anyone. It is an aspiration of mine, not a correction of you.

Dave O
Dave O

February 11, 2019

So very true and well said. It’s good to know others go through it and have a “family “ of friends around them to help them climb out.

Fred
Fred

February 11, 2019

Solid writing, brother. Thank you for sharing!

Steve R
Steve R

February 11, 2019

I am 56, and very glad I was allowed to fail as s boy playing sports, in school, and at home. I learned that I could always try again, or not, if that was the lesson. I got into martial arts in my 30’s and that was a fantastic places to grow,get beat and like it,and espirit de corps was something I’ll never forget.

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