Success: It’s a Form of Humility

Posted: November 28, 2016 in success
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Failure is not the most humbling thing, usually — success is.

Not for everybody of course, but for all of us, if we are willing to look success in the eye — and not blink.

The other day I succeed in hiring a new staff member for my organization, a young woman with little experience but a beautifully inspiring persona that perfectly matches the work she will do. It was very humbling.

I knew how to do this by previously failing at doing this, and then succeeding at it a few times, which has made me super-aware that no matter how well you vet a potential hire, you don’t know them until you know them — over time — or you intuit them precisely and accurately, or you get lucky.

Most every success is born of some failure and includes within it some failure so it contains both success and failure. This helps with the humility thing.

Take me. I am a modestly successful writer. I have failed at this writing thing more than I have succeeded. I have written much more that has remained unpublished than has been published. I have written a few things well, and many things in a mediocre fashion. Interestingly, my best work is unplublished — except as it exists in blog form — written for a small following. I consider it successful just to have written it, even if it were read by no one.  My best writing is a personal success, not a public success, quite humble in impact and influence, but hugely satisfying to me.

Success, furthermore — when it is rightly considered — is also humbling because it is communal. We can’t take the credit alone. Each and everyone of our successes follows and builds on someone else’s previous success, on their nurture of us, on their input, their contribution, their support, often their collaboration with us.

I recently oversaw a rather large building project — a beautiful, interior garden courtyard. It was all others — their money, their expertise, their volunteerism, their passion, their aesthetic, their labor.

It is always like that.

I am a teacher. I know how to do the teacherly thing. Every teacher I have ever had — from first grade through graduate school — made me a teacher. All their input, modeling, nuturing and care — as well as that of my family and my many friends — this support made me a into a reasonably effective pedagogue.

Finally, much of our success — as previously noted — is luck, or chance or providence. It is not us, and we know it. Anyone who has made it will tell you that. To come on the scene at the right time, to be the right fit, to have an opportunity come our way — so much literally falls into our laps, or it doesn’t.

My current job — which I absolutely adore, mostly — and which has contained much success — was handed to me. I did nothing to get it. All God, I’d say, and a few other odd, painful and interesting circumstances.

Success — it’s a form of humility.

If we don’t know that, we know nothing of success.

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