Why Humility Matters

I want to define humility by listing three defining characteristics that are true of humble people. I hope that by constructing an accurate definition of humility, we will begin to recover the crucial role that it plays in our leadership, on our teams, and in the world.


Humble people have an accurate self-awareness

In an era of selfie sticks and Facebook, we are more aware of ourselves than ever before. The concept of ‘self’ is constantly on the forefront our minds as we design our lives – and our social media pages – to reflect the pristine picture of how we want others to perceive us.

In contrast, humble people don’t feel the need to paint a perfect picture of an “ideal life” for others. They have the ability to zoom out and objectively assess the merits or shortcomings of their character. Humble people embody a disposition that is less concerned with the image they portray and more concerned with the quality of their work, the effectiveness of their lives, and the content of their character.


Humble People Think of Themselves Less

As C.S. Lewis wrote in his classic book, Mere Christianity:

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” (C.S. Lewis)

Humble people refuse to play the “self-esteem” game. They are not self-deprecating or self-congratulatory, but instead they are self-forgetful. Meaning, they don’t think less of their accomplishments by putting themselves down, nor do they inflate their own ego by elevating themselves over others. True humility is characterized by a quiet confidence and a genuine interest in others. Pastor Tim Keller said it best when he said humble people are like ‘toes’:

“The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself.” (Tim Keller)


Humble People have True Freedom

As New York Times Author David Brooks put it:

“Humility is freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time, but egotism is a ravenous hunger in a small space—self-concerned, competitive, and distinction-hungry.” (David Brooks)

Humble people have true freedom because they have learned to rid themselves of the cumbersome shackles of comparison. Achieving superiority over others is not a box that humble people are trying check. Instead, humble people have set themselves free from the need to feed their ego as it relates to comparing their accomplishments to those around them.
The burden of comparative score-keeping frees the humble person to concentrate on improving their own performance, character, and moral integrity instead of wasting their energy worrying about how they stack up against others.

To summarize, the virtue of humility matters primarily for two reasons. First, humility gives us the freedom to become the leaders we were created to be instead of the person we believe others think we should be. Second, true humility leads to wisdom.Wisdom helps us become better leaders. Again, we turn to author David Brooks for helping us grasp the how wisdom helps us win as leaders:

“wisdom isn’t a body of information. It’s the moral quality of knowing what you don’t know and figuring out a way to handle your ignorance, uncertainty, and limitation.” (David Brooks)

Great leaders have cultivated the wisdom to adeptly handle their own ignorance, uncertainty, and limitations. They are able to navigate the inevitable pitfalls of their own pride because they have wisdom to guide their path. Ultimately, humility is the key that unlocks our ability to govern ourselves, lead others with wisdom, and navigate the inevitable blind-spots within our own character.


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Habits of Excellence – Part 2

The Order of Excellence

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”


Do we act rightly because we are excellent or does excellence come as a result of acting rightly? This central question is important to consider as we tease out the implications on our lives while pursuing excellence. Athletes, coaches, and teachers (both in basketball and other walks of life) must wrestle with this question as they attempt to develop a theology of motivation within the realm of sport. This question takes on a special significance as coaches decide how to relate to their players as they try to get the most out of their teams. The question becomes, do players have excellence inside of them that must be summoned on a regular basis, or, does this idea – that everyone has intrinsic excellence – miss the mark? Does this line of thinking place an overemphasis on the attainment of virtue without regard for its processes?Stone_sculptor_at_work


Following the order of excellence is crucial if we want to improve our consistency as basketball players. Ultimately, the
more consistent we are, the higher our level of performance. Let’s first consider what excellence is NOT before we explore the notion of how to achieve it. Excellence is not a buried treasure waiting to be discovered; it is not a magic potion or secret mechanism. Although excellence is available to those who act rightly, the attainment of it is not a treasure hunt with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We are inclined to find shortcuts to excellence, but reality is that there are no formulas, 5-step DIY manuals, or treasure maps that show us the road we must take.


Excellence is a laborious process; it is the summation of thousands of individual decisions that comprise a greater work of art. It is like a sculptor who starts chipping away at a piece of rock. The sculptor does not expect to see the piece of art take shape after only a few swings of the chisel, but understands that each cut into the rock brings him closer to a beautiful finished product. The daily decisions we make every day are the ONLY things that matter if we desire to become excellent. Begin with the end in mind so that your day-to-day activities are guided by your ultimate goals. The order of excellence begins with acting rightly which slowly leads to virtuous habits. Ultimately, virtuous repetition is the path that leads to excellence; the decision is yours, the choice is up to you.