S1E17 Thoughts on Humility

Humility isn’t the answer to everything. But it is part of almost every answer.

Hello and welcome to Parking Thought. I’m Jacob and I’m glad you’re here today. In the episode we’re going to be talking about humility. This is a hard episode to write because I have no idea how I’m going to market it to anyone not already subscribed. Maybe you can take a minute and help. If you think this episode helps move us towards a better future will you take the time to share?

One of the memories I have from being in the military was a classroom setting with a bunch of young military officers. We were all introducing ourselves and one of the guys in the room decided we needed a laugh to break things up. He did the typical stating his name and some forgettable fact. Then he said with a great dead-pan voice that his biggest challenge in life was he had very few things he could be humble about because he was so good at everything.

The entire classroom roared.

We shared a moment and we created a shared memory. Those shared memories are connections that happen when you’re willing to create space to be with others. Otherwise you’re just doing it on your own.

Humility is acknowledging the opportunities for togetherness and growth that we see everywhere in our lives.

Opportunities for Growth

In each episode of this show we tend to ask questions and explore the answers and look at the good things in the world. Those questions are a sign of humility. That’s one of the reasons I can share with such excitement. There’s a lot of joy to be found in the world. What is the point of all of that joy if it can’t be shared with others?

Often times we’re hesitant to show just how many opportunities we have to grow. We hide these opportunities out of fear of rejection or ridicule. But those who ridicule are the ones who are ignorant. I love how Goldratt talks about experts. He said,

An expert is not someone who gives you the answer, it is someone who asks you the right question.

Surely if an expert is the person trained to find good questions those experts wouldn’t make fun of those learning to ask good questions. After all, questions are an acknowledgement of an opportunity to grow. For me asking questions is a sign of humility. Only accepting part of the answers is a sign of pride.

Empathy For Others

In myself and each of my children I’ve noticed they get frustrated by the choices that others make and how they are impacted by those choices in their life. So and so said this or did that and it impacted me has become a theme with our older and younger children.

I think it’s because as a family we consume a lot of scripted or edited content. That’s a nice way of saying that we watch a lot of TV, YouTube, TikTok and we listen to audiobooks. The problem here isn’t what the other person did, but our expectations—people aren’t performers.

Like humility we’re in control of how we set up our expectations. Whenever we need to reframe things it’s good to find a reference point. For much of my life I intentionally go to extremes as my reference point. So in this case where someone else’s choice negatively impacts your life consider for a moment those people who were rounded up in WWII and sent off to concentration camps. Holocaust victims and Japanese Americans had other people’s choices negatively impact their life. How does that compare to what you’re dealing with? Are you humble enough to let others make their own choices? Do they impact you so terribly that you can’t overcome them and have faith that they did their best? In my lifetime I was lucky enough to meet someone who was imprisoned during the war and he was one of the most positive people I’ve known.

If you aren't humble, whatever empathy you claim is false and probably results from some arrogance or the desire to control. But true empathy is rooted in humility and the understanding that there are many people with as much to contribute in life as you.
-[Anand Mahindra]

Seeing The Contribution of Others

When you embrace humility its easy to see the contribution of others and realize that you’re not alone. How often do we feel better when we realize that we’re not alone? I love the story of Elijah in 2nd Kings chapter 6 in the Bible. This story comes at a time of violence in human history. Instead of people being incentivized to create products and gain wealth to build influence they would build armies that could transport influence from one space to another. In 2nd Kings 6 a great army arrived at night with horses and the tanks of the ancient world, the chariot. They surrounded the city with the prophet Elijah and his household and servants. One of Elijah’s servants seeing the army before them panicked. Elijah responded with great words of comfort. fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

This scripture in 2 Kings is both powerful from a standpoint of faith and language. How often do we miss seeing those who are with us?

When we’re in our zoom calls and other meetings it’s often easy for us to feel isolated and alone. There are lots of great opportunity to recognize that we are working together. One technique we use with our teams is to run standup meetings to coordinate work and create this sense of togetherness. Leaders at any level can create those opportunities and I believe you can provide this type of leadership without having a particular title.

Political Pressure

Humility is 100% in your control but often the political perspective of our environments discourage humility. Those who participate in professional politics are probably the most impacted by this. The system emphatically discourages humility in their professional persona. This doesn’t mean that personally they don’t apply the principle—but our political system is so strong it doesn’t value the qualities that help make us our best selves.

New York’s politics are especially good examples of this pressure. In New York Governor Andrew Cuomo serves as the centerpiece of how this pressure impacts a person at the state level. The system discourages humility—and 2020 exposed this system in a big way.

We knew early on that vulnerable populations for COVID were those with existing conditions such as obesity, lung, and heart complications—and especially the elderly. That makes Cuomo’s choice to send [6,300 positive COVID patients to rest homes] questionable at best. With that choice’s consequences looming [his staff hid numbers] on the death toll that ensued. In any role of authority there’s a high amount of political pressure to remain an appearance of competence.

When it comes to nailing the appearance of competence Cuomo takes the cake. [He earned an Emmy] for his press briefings. He also has a book coming out about leadership during COVID which appears to be headed to the publishers before the leadership he provided can be properly evaluated.

I can’t judge his ability to be humble across all the opportunities and aspects of his life—but I can call out the systems that encourage and support this type of behavior.

These political examples are an extreme one, but in each of our lives similar pressures exist to encourage us to trump up our past accomplishments instead of embracing our growth opportunities. Simply saying that humility is something you’re in control of is certainly true but if that were the only thing we said it would make it seem like each of us could completely 180 the systems that encourage our very lack of humility—and that’s asking too much. That’s asking the person to tackle the great challenges ahead by being alone and that’s not how change works.

Creating Critical Mass

Any system that needs to change doesn’t generally change by an edict from on high. It usually changes from a collection of smaller choices that build to a critical mass. Even when you may be able to pinpoint a speech that made a difference it was often after thousands or millions of people worked hard to make that speech possible. Would I Have A Dream resonated with an absent audience?

We put a lot of pressure on the individual if we claim it’s only their responsibility to be more humble without changing the system that they’re a part of. Shifting responsibility to one person is disingenuous. Instead, each of us can help make steps towards building the critical mass that will help us create a more constructive society. We can build the reality that lets others say they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

You can demonstrate humility in your daily life. Admitting when you’re wrong, admitting when you learn, and admitting you need help are some of the most powerful ways to share this principle and help create an environment of humility, trust and self honesty.

Another way we can help is to celebrate the courage it takes to be humble. When you see someone asking for help rehearse your response so they don’t feel guilty or inconvenient for asking. Those sighs of inconvenience go a long way to discourage others. How can you help someone else’s request feel welcomed as part of your daily life?

If you’d like to share the steps you’re taking to help move us towards that future feel free to leave a comment wherever you find this episode or using the link to the show notes over at ParkingThought.com ParkingThought is your favorite .com. If you visit there you can never go wrong.

In preparing fo this episode I came across this quote:

With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings.
-[Ezra Taft Benson]

I hope all of us can enjoy the blessings that come from this principle.

I’m Jacob and thanks for joining us on our journey into a better future. Remember in a world where you can be anything, why not choose to be grateful?