Where does humility come from?
First, it might be worth defining humility. Admittedly, there are many working definitions out there, but for simplicity we’ll use: “A modest view of one’s importance.”
Through the years, I’ve been consistently told that I came across as being extremely humble. As I was doing well academically and helping to lead different sports teams, it seemed like people were amazed that I was able to do all of that without building a huge ego.
Looking back, there are many reasons that I think I was able to remain humble, but possibly the most important aspect is often overlooked.
I had an eye-opening experience in 8th grade.
8th grade was the first year I played a sport for my school. And as the quarterback for our football team, I was highly invested in our success.
Heading into our big showdown with our crosstown rival, we were feeling good. We were coming off of a great win and we felt we had the better team.
Historically, this was always a big game. Since both of our junior high schools fed into the same high school, we knew we would eventually have to compete with each other for playing time. Now was the time to prove our superiority. Plus, one of my best friends happened to be the quarterback for our rivals.
To say this was a a big game would be an understatement.
So understandably, I was crushed when we were embarrassed on the field. We came out flat, and never even put up a fight. They ran all over us.
It was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my young sports career. I felt like I wanted to dig a hole and escape from everyone, so much so that the idea of going to school the next day and facing all of my friends was almost too much to handle.
So you could imagine my surprise when I showed up at school the next day and saw something incredible – Nobody seemed to care.
I was stunned.
Sure, some of my teammates were a little down, but besides a few isolated conversations about the game, everyone went on with their days as usual.
It didn’t feel right. I had just spent all night obsessing about the game and worrying how everyone would react, and everything was back to normal in less than 24 hours.
And that’s when it hit me.
The superficial things in my life, many of which seemed most important to me, really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
This idea really resonated with me, and it has repeatedly been reinforced.
In the following years, as my sports teams went on to win championships and have other huge victories, it felt like we were on top of the world. For a short period, all eyes were on us.
But sure enough, the attention faded. Almost as soon as the season ended, everyone forgot about us. People went back to their daily lives, and the excitement shifted to the next up and coming thing.
I’ve had the same experience on a more personal level as well. As I’ve had different superficial personal achievements, I’ve realized how little it really matters. I can come home after making the biggest deal of my life (or getting an A on a huge test, graduating from college, landing my dream job, etc.), and none of it changes who I am.
My neighbors aren’t going to know the difference. My friends won’t treat me any differently. My dog certainly won’t care.
That’s where the humility piece comes in.
Achievements aren’t what really matter.
Your athletic abilities mean nothing compared to how you treat people. Your grades, or your position at work, are far less important than the impact you have on your friends and family.
Being a great athlete, business man, lawyer, or doctor doesn’t make you better than anyone else.
That’s the first lesson in true humility.