The general election is just days away! Things always get pretty crazy during this week every four years—lots of promises made, reflections on presidents of the past, inflammatory rants on social media pages—the list goes on. As I think about what a new president will mean for our future, I also find myself thinking about history, and something I think we are all looking for right now: a little bit of humility.
No matter what political party you are affiliated with (if any), I think we can all agree that Abraham Lincoln was a pretty remarkable man. Despite his humble beginnings, he accomplished some incredible things (beginning the process of ending slavery, maintaining the union during the Civil War, and setting an example of integrity and wisdom). I wish we had more role models like him today.
One of my own role models during my long investment career was a colleague named Ernie Ankrim, a brilliant financial thinker who became the chief market strategist where I worked. However, as smart a strategist as he was, Ernie was equally gifted in public speaking.
Everyone admired how Ernie shared his insights with such humor and wit. He was the total package and audiences could never get enough of him. (It was painful to follow him!) Yet, despite all of his accolades, Ernie is the one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. If anyone had bragging rights it was Ernie, yet he was always the first to give others the credit.
Ernie’s humility has had an enormous impact on my life and my behavior. Whenever I’ve been acknowledged for a good work or some success, I often think, “How would Ernie respond?” My answer is always the same. First and foremost, I owe my success to others.
Abe Lincoln had a similar philosophy. He famously said, “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.”
As you travel along your life journey, you’ll have many proud achievements along the way. And you know what? They’ll likely speak for themselves. You won’t have to toot your own horn to get people to notice you.
Here are three tips to help you become more humble (and I think we can all hope our presidential nominees will apply these to their lives as well!):
- Ask for feedback from others. Instead of insisting you’re always right (or your way is the only way), consider asking others for feedback on your performance (what went well and where can I up my game?). They may offer some insight you never would have thought of yourself!
- Understand that adversity can be preparation for greater things. Setbacks are a part of life, unfortunately. Humility allows you to accept these obstacles without the fear of failure, to dust yourself off, and start again.
- Confront your negative opinions of others. Do you have any deep-rooted prejudices? Chances are, you’re too proud to admit it. It’s important to recognize these (for example, negative views on certain people groups, etc.), and then make the effort to listen and learn with an open mind.
And, when successes come your way, rejoice and be grateful to those who helped make it happen. Your acknowledgement of others first, before you give yourself a pat on the back, will be greatly admired and will set you up as a leader of integrity.
When you do something great, is your first instinct to give yourself the credit or others who have helped make you the person you are today? Who comes to mind as someone you would like to thank or give credit?