It’s amazing how quickly humility shows up when you’re incapacitated in a hospital bed for six days with a three-foot tube in your chest wacked out on morphine experiencing multiple anxiety attacks.
That happened to me in February of 2006.
“Excruciating would be an understatement,” I explain to people when I tell the story about my collapsed lung, aka, pneumothorax.
Fortunately, from great suffering comes great awakening: That was the exact moment I got over myself.
“Get over yourself.”
Has anyone given you that advice before?
If so, consider yourself lucky. Better to hear it from a friend than from your thoracic surgeon.
The only problem with that axiom is its impermanence.
Helpful advice? Yes.
Enduring advice? Not so much.
HERE’S THE REALITY: Getting over yourself is only the beginning.
The challenge is STAYING over yourself. Today we’re going to talk about how:
1. Scars are souvenirs of humility. Underneath my armpit is a scar about the size of a piece of Trident gum. That’s where the chest tube re-inflated my left lung. I look at it everyday as a reminder of my humanity, vulnerability and need to protect my personal and professional pace.
What about you? What scars might serve as positive reminders? Keep in mind: If you don’t have any scars, I’m not suggesting self-mutilation. Emotional scars work too. Not all tissue is visible. Your challenge is to honor what stopped you. To constantly remind yourself of your imperfection. Are you confident enough to be humble?
2. Call on people who call you out. I have a handful of specific friends that I love dearly because of their ability (and willingness) to call bullshit on me. Especially when I say, act or think something that is dramatically inconsistent with the person I know I am, or know I’m becoming. They’re always there to bring me back down. To keep me over myself.
Who does that for you? Do you have people in your life that, when you’re around them, they leave you nowhere to hide? Nothing beats the mirror of self-awareness. How often are you looking into it?
3. Get off your pedestal. My friends Jason and Kim Kotecki wrote an awesome book called There’s An Adult In My Soup. On the topic of staying over yourself, they suggest that the best way to get off your pedestal is to knock yourself off of it. When asked how to do so, they had three suggestions.
First, hang out with people who are: Smarter than you. More traveled than you. More experienced than you. More loving than you. It’s good for your ego AND your self-development.
Second, volunteer, in the trenches, for real. The best way to get down off your pedestal is to offer it to others.
Third, after every shower you take, take a look at yourself in the mirror: Then dance The Macarena. You’re guaranteed (not) to take yourself seriously for the rest of the day.
Good tips. How will you one-down yourself?
4. Play with people who are better than you. As opposed to keeping people around you that are inadequate just so you feel better about yourself. Instead, do what Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour does, “You have to put yourself in an environment where you get your ass kicked.”
Don’t be afraid to be the worst one in the room. Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who challenge your game, keep you accountable and inspire you to call on yourself a little more. Are you keeping the company of competent?
5. Take your shoes off. During my leadership retreats with Presidents Council, we enforce a strict no-shoe rule. Not only is it comfortable, it’s comforting. Nothing grounds a group of Type A executives like wool socks. Sitting around a toasty fire in our fuzzies immediately fortifies our humanity while simultaneously resurrecting the inner child within all of us.
The best part is, as the facilitator, delivering a presentation to a group of millionaire corporate executives (in my socks) causes me to slide around the wood floor like an Olympic ice skater. Taking yourself too seriously becomes a mathematical impossibility. How would going shoeless modify your posture?
6. Practice a healthy ratio of self-deprecation. For every joke you crack at someone else’s expense, make two about yourself. Now, that doesn’t mean fall into a self-hating spiral about what an idiot you are. Just enough to express to the world that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
A helpful rule of thumb is: When you share a success story, use someone else as an example. When share tell a mistake moment, use yourself as an example. Are you poking fun in the mirror?
7. Galvanize the grace to be a beginner. Bikram Choudhury, founder of the yoga practice of the same name, is known for his mantra: “Never too late, never too old, never too bad to or sick to do this yoga and start from scratch again.” And whether you practice yoga or not, your challenge is to release the grip of your ego and get back to basics.
First, by reading more Dummies books. Second, by increasing the frequency with which you say, “I don’t know what that means.” And finally, by regularly revisiting people who are just starting down their path, as a reminder of when you were a rookie. How are you embracing your inner beginner?
8. Get on the ground. The word humble comes from the Latin humilis, which means, “on the ground.” Embrace that concept by spending one day next week working on the floor. With your shoes off. The excuses you will most likely give for not doing so include:
“But I’ll look dumb.” “But the floor is dirty!” “But I’ll wrinkle my clothes…” “But I’ll get yelled at by my boss!” “But what if my employees see me?”
Get over it. Since I started my company in 2002, I’ve spent at least SOME time, every single day, working on the floor. By working on the ground, you ground yourself. This modest posture will instill an attitude of appreciation and respect for your creative environment. Ultimately, by honoring your space, you invite more creative solutions. When was the last time you worked on the floor?
9. Publicly celebrate mistakes. Doing so makes other people – especially your employees – more likely to open up to you with their ideas, thoughts and concerns. Why? Because you’ve proven to them that you support failure. It is only when you’re willing to surrender to your own humanity that people trust you more.
And the cool part is, the more you practice this, the less judgmental you become in the future when they screw up. When was the last time you shared a screw up?
REMEMBER: Not everyone who gets over himself remains in that position.
Educate yourself in the language of humility.
Incorporate these practices into your daily life.
You won’t just get over yourself – you’ll STAY over yourself.
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
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