The Power of Humility

When you hear the word humility, what is the first thing that usually comes to mind?

For me, the definition I grew up with is along the lines of don't brag or be cocky, be nice, and show respect to people. If you google humility you will arrive at the definition of "a modest or low view of ones own importance." Don't get me wrong, there is definitely something to the classic definition, but the true power of what I call effective humility is something a little bit different. There is a big difference between outward humility and inward. Let me explain.

Effective humility also known as inward humility is something that all great leaders share. The classic example is the creator of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton. If you read his book Made In America , you will really get to see it in action. Sam was known for spending more time in his competitors stores than his own in the early days. He would question everything and constantly be looking for ways to improve his own business. This trait allowed him to create a net worth of 156 billion dollars. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln " I learn from everybody, its just that some people I learn what not to do." Humility in this sense closely ties in with what they call epistemic curiosity, which is a fancy word for the act of seeking as much information as you can on a certain subject.

Plenty of people will admit to being humble, but when you give them advice they simply block it off, or they already claim to know it. These people are outwardly humble, but lack the essential inward element. Being a know it all really is the exact opposite of effective humility. Being inwardly humble isn't saying "Oh I already know that", its taking the advice given and implementing it immediately. You may claim to be humble, but how often do you take the time to read books? We have access to the minds of the greatest thinkers of all time at our fingertips now, but instead we would rather look at cat videos. This is the reason why I find the topic of humility to be so very important right now. It takes more brain power to have this skill than the opposite, which is mental laziness and close-mindedness.

You can be as cocky and arrogant as you want, but as long as you are inwardly humble that is all that truly matters. A great example of this is Michael Jordan. If you read the book Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, Tim Grover was coming fresh out of college and he wanted to train MJ who at the time was skyrocketing in his career. He went to Jordan and told him that he could make him a better basketball player if he would try out his new workout routines. If you know anything about Michael, you know that he was one of the most arrogant players of all time on the basketball court. His true strength was his teach-ability, or in other words his inner humility. Most people would just dismiss a guy with no reputation if they were already in the NBA, but not Jordan. Because of this power, Grover helped him become the Jordan we know today. Michael Jordan was like a sponge, he would soak up anything you told him that might help him improve his game and that's how you too should strive to be.

Humility also plays a large part in the business and investing world. True intelligence comes from knowing exactly what you don't know. Charlie Munger would call this knowing the edge of your circle of competence. Ray Dalio, owner of Bridgewater Associates with a personal net worth of 15.2 billion dollars, has a great view on this trait. Dalio views the investing world like a jungle that you have to cross through to get to the good life on the other side. This jungle has scary monsters that will kill you if you don't see them coming and the only way to do that is to constantly ask "What don't I know?". This ability is one of the most important things you can cultivate and you see it over and over again in the top investors. People tend to romanticize business and block out certain things by saying they don't work anymore, especially in marketing and advertising. It is like a virus in your mind that you must really take the time to eliminate and force yourself to only look at the objective results, not just what you want to be true.

I guess in a sense you could also call it truth seeking. We all have our own lens through which we see the world and as we know it is easily distorted. It takes serious cognitive effort to see the world as how it really is, as each and every one of us have varying degrees of delusion. Humility is one of the essential skills it takes to cut through the delusion, rewire your brain, and improve your life.

If you take anything away from this I hope its that you can say and do whatever you want, but you better be a learning machine. You need to listen to everyone and if a smart guy says something you find to be weird, instead of immediately saying nahh that's stupid, instead say hmm I wonder why  is he saying that? Once you ask that question then you can do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Charlie Munger says that he never allows himself the luxury of having an opinion unless he can argue the other side better than they can. While I think this is just part of his training as a lawyer, I am pretty sure we could all benefit from that advice.

A practical piece of advice that you could start to implement today is to conduct various experiments. If you are a hard-core bodybuilder, try to do calisthenics for a few months. If you only read non fiction books, read some fantasy ( guilty of not doing this). If you are a vegan, try the Atkins diet. If you are a republican, learn about the democrats etc etc. Tai Lopez is the guy who got me on the mad scientist experiment train and it is extremely rewarding.

Personally this is the one thing that I force myself to keep in mind at all times and despite being initially bad at it, I found it has made a huge difference in my life. With that said go out and do the following: read tons of biographies, learn about opposing views that you automatically disagree with, run experiments, and become teachable. You can thank me later.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

~Ben

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