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Ted Turner, the famous media mogul, once said, “A little humility makes you perfect.” While it may be argued that no human being can ever be perfect, it is hard to argue with the fact that showing humility is a trait of many highly successful people.

This might seem counterintuitive at first. You might think that highly successful people have virtually no humility, because they think they are the greatest and are out to prove it through their actions. It is important, though, that we do not mistake confidence for a lack of humility.

One dictionary definition of humility is “modest estimate or opinion of one’s own importance.” Someone who is truly humble knows that success is not guaranteed. History is littered with entrepreneurs who had what they thought was a great idea, worked tirelessly, had proper funding, did everything “right,” and still failed. You just never know for sure what might catch on with the public.

A successful person knows this. They know that they are not so great or important that they cannot fail. Instead, by having a good measure of humility, they realize that success requires constant effort. Even someone like Donald Trump, who comes across as arrogant as anyone, actually has a good dose of humility. He once stated that everyone who writes to him deserves a reply. He realizes that while he may be more successful than most people, he is not better than they are.

Humility is also valuable in personal interaction. Few people like to be around someone who constantly brags about how great they are. T. Boone Pickens, one of America’s wealthiest men, is known as a very down-to-earth guy, and is liked by generally everyone he comes in contact with.

When you watch interviews with the best golfers in the world, notice how they phrase things. You never hear the tournament champion say something like, “The reason I won today is because I was better than all the other guys.” Instead, he says things like, “I was fortunate enough to win today.” Now, he might believe the former and not the latter, but the message that comes across is that he is demonstrating humility. He also realizes that each victory might just be the last victory.

The art of humility also comes in handy in teaching golf. A good golf teacher knows that it is important to never stop learning. While the fundamentals of hitting a ball with a stick have not changed much, if any, over time, the ways that these fundamentals are communicated may change. We can always learn some new way of putting something, or of a new drill, or some other teaching nuance. It is fine to think that we are a good, or even great, teacher of the game, but we must recognize that teaching perfection can never be realized. This alone should give us a dose of humility, and an impetus to never stop learning or striving to improve as a teacher.

Humility is also closely associated with another word – respect. Showing humility means that we respect the people with whom we are dealing. If we disdain their opinion, or automatically disregard their advice without first considering it, it shows a lack of humility that may be to our detriment. One way of looking at things is that no matter who you are, each and every person on earth who is physically and mentally healthy can do something better than you can.

Just as it’s important to not mistake confidence for lack of humility, we must also not mistake humility for a lack of confidence. Someone who does lack confidence is definitely showing a good sense of humility, probably far too much, if there is such a thing. But, a person with humility can indeed be very confident in what they do and who they are.

It just goes back to that one word – respect – that is employed by the humble person. If we respect every person we come in contact with, we are automatically showing a good dose of humility, and those two words definitely go hand-in-hand.

 

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