My parents tried to teach me to be humble through a variety of pithy phrases, among them “don’t get too big for your britches” and “don’t be a sassy pants.” I’m still not too sure what either of these means, but I think it has something to do with not bragging about your clothes.
Zappos Core Value #10: Be Humble
For years, I thought that being humble wasn’t a very good thing at all. If a person is in humble circumstances, that means that he’s poor. And if you are well and truly humiliated, it is said that you “eat humble pie.”
As if that weren’t enough, I associated being humble with minimizing one’s own finest attributes. Whatever happened to tooting your own horn? You can’t expect anyone else to do that for you. As they say, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
It took a few decades of experience and a bit of maturity to come to the understanding that I had it all wrong. Gradually, I came to several conclusions:
- No matter how good you are at something, someone else (usually someone younger) is better. (This is a good thing. It gives you something to strive for.)
- When you finally think you have all the answers, they change the questions on you.
- “After the fire, a still small voice.” 1 Kings 19:12
- “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang, but a whimper.” S. Eliot
Ultimately, I believe that being humble is a close partner of being grateful. If I am able to make just one person’s life better in some small way, I am grateful for that.
The world is a big place, and most of what we do in life is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. No one is going to write a book about what I did at work today, nor will what I had for lunch make the local newspaper. However, if I’m very lucky, perhaps one of my coworkers will go home and tell his wife that a manager gave him a nice compliment today. Perhaps that will put a smile on her face and she’ll return the favor to someone else who needs it, who will do the same for more people. As you can see, I am a big fan of “paying it forward.” If someone is kind to me, it makes me want to do the same for others.
That’s why it is so important for managers to lead by example. Whatever behaviors we model are likely to be copied, consciously or not, by employees. Send the right message, do the right thing, wow a customer, spread the love and you may just have done something good for thousands of people.
To me, humility is about being satisfied with the small things, knowing that the small things are really all that matter.
Most important of all, believe. Believe in yourself, believe in your customers, believe in what you do.
Believe that you can.
Thank you for staying with me for the past ten days as I made my way through Zappos Core Values. It’s wonderful to find a business I can truly admire. Could I be a future Zapponian? One can dream!
Tomorrow on A Map of California: 14th century Japanese warlords have taken over my life!