A friend called recently and asked whether I would meet with a long-time colleague of hers who was considering a career change and thinking of becoming a management consultant.
Naturally, I agreed, her colleague called and we arranged to meet over lunch.
In selecting the restaurant he asked whether I would mind meeting close to his office as he “really hated wasting time in traffic”.
Intrigued that a stranger, seeking my advice, would suggest that my time is not as valuable as his and therefore I could well afford to spend time in traffic in order to meet him, I nevertheless decided to go along with his request.
Lunch lasted a little over an hour and while the food was delicious the company proved to be, at best, extremely trying.
He began by asking me a few questions about myself and each time I started to answer he would interrupt to tell me how he had successfully dealt with similar circumstance while completely ignoring anything I had to say.
He mentioned he considered himself to be an expert in a wide variety of fields and was certain he would experience great and immediate success as an independent consultant once potential clients learned how much he had to offer.
This man seemed completely unaware of his own lack of humility and while my normal behaviour would be to share with him my own thoughts which, as we have frequently discussed, represent nothing more than my opinion, in this instance I chose to say nothing because I was quite fascinated by this man’s total absence of self-awareness.
He boasted, he bragged, he offered stark criticism of many others, always comparing himself to them, in a way that naturally showed him in good light.
Humility is not part of this man’s make up and at the end of our meeting when he suggested that I would probably be doing myself a favour by referring him to potential clients, I took the opportunity to tell him why that probably will never happen.
Later that evening I was watching an interview with two of the wealthiest men on the planet; Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates.
They were talking about philanthropy and their hopes for the future. Bill Gates spoke of the work his foundation is doing around the world and saving millions of lives and Warren Buffett spoke of the contribution that his dollars will make to ensure this work continues.
What struck me most about these two self-made billionaires was the absence of any reference to their own personal greatness or success. They both spoke of the role that luck had played in their lives and how fortunate they were in being where they are. At no time did either of them mention their own accomplishments.
I could not help but compare my lunch companion – a man whose greatness certainly exists in his own mind – and these two icons who have brought so much of value to the world and who are gracious, modest and humble at all times.
I know self-promotion is touted as being an essential prerequisite to success and that those who market themselves put themselves in the right place at the right time, and “play the game” frequently rise to the top. They frequently do so more through their self-promotion skills than their other talents.
The two men I was watching on television clearly practice The Habit of Humility to the extent that it is not merely a habit, but an everyday part of who they are.
And it is this Habit of Humility that endears them to so many millions of others.
It is interesting as we go through life to meet people whose favourite topic is themselves and who will, at the drop of the proverbial hat, boast of their own greatness completely oblivious to the fact that the audience, for the most part, just does not care.
Today I proudly introduce The Habit of Humility and will continue this discussion over the next two weeks because it is this habit that keeps us grounded. Those who practice this understand at a very visceral level, that regardless of the one’s life accomplishments none of us are better than any of us.
The Habit of Humility – I’ve been thinking of trying it but do I really have the right to deny sharing my greatness with everyone I meet?
You do know I’m kidding, don’t you?
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.