We forget the real and all important reason why we exist. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that there is a reason
A Simple Leadership Lesson:
We are not here to be takers. We are not.
We don’t exist to amass great wealth, consume conspicuously and collect a huge number of “toys”, badges, notches, accolades and stuff. We do not.
I awoke this morning to the sound of rain. I love the rain. Love how it sounds. The aroma. The silky feel. What it does when it hits the ground. Satisfying the ache of parched soil. Slaking the thirst of withered plant. Simple. Beautiful. Regal rain. Such a humble pleasure.
Rain serves a purpose. And it reminded me of WHY I am here. Of the significance of my life and purpose. It wasn’t always like this for me. Once upon a time the rain would’ve been damned. I had important fish to fry.
Besides, I couldn’t have my imported Italian silk ties stained by the rain…
In former lives I was a narcissistic, self centered, egotistic and selfish ass. Everything was about me. I, Me, Mine. I was hung up on appearance. On Form rather than Function. I wanted to Lead. Be a Leader. Be SOMEBODY.
I was an ASSHOLE. The southern end of a northbound mule.
Let’s call it like it was.
I say former lives because I have lived through many phases and lived my life on stages. My phases included:
- The First Hispanic Corporate Officer Phase
- The Community Activist Phase
- The Chief Information Officer Technology Emperor Phase
- The Chief Executive Officer, Big Shot, Wall Street Darling Phase
- The Celebrity Phase
The Stages and Roles were many and varied:
- Corporate Executive and Dynamic Leader
- Country Club Bon Vivant
- Patron of the Arts
- Unfaithful Womanizer
- Hard Charging Partier, Addict and Substance Abuser
- Global Player
- Corner Cutter and Lawbreaker
- Federal Prison Felon and Convict
That last one was a killer.
Not literally. This is not a posthumously published post. But virtually. Yeah. That last stage kicked my ass. Rocked me to my core. Knocked me to my knees. And I stayed there for 33 and 1/2 months.
Callouses to prove it. Physical, Mental, Psychic and Spiritual callouses.
You see, throughout my career and life I was focused on all the wrong things.
All the Unimportant Stuff
- Hung up on Self Importance
- The Self Created Drama of Life
- Trappings of Power
- Consumed by Ego and Immersed in Pride
Leading because of a title. Not because of a calling to lead.
That prison gig humbled me…
That’s what it took. For me. For some people, they can be humbled by less drastic means. By less dramatic circumstances.
Not me. It took a two by four between the eyes, a roundhouse right to the jaw and a vicious kick to the solar plexus for me.
I emerged from Prison a different man. A changed man. But by no means, a perfect man. Just very different.
Since then, I have been undergoing a transformation. That’s right. It does not happen overnight. Change is hard. Habits run deep. Sticking with new behaviors, reformed philosophies and reinvented character is not easy.
Thirty five years of neglect and wanton living aren’t eradicated from your being in the wink of an eye…
So it’s happening gradually. Slowly. But persistently.
Oh, and throw in a Stage IV Cancer Diagnosis. That’ll for sure kick the shit out of you like nothing else will.
For one hot New York second I cried out, “Lord, why me? Enough is enough!” He answered back, “Deal with it. It’s life. You have two choices. Give in. Die. The world will keep on turning. Or fight. And live.”
Not much of a choice, Big Guy!
You must know which one I chose. So obvious to me. But not the case with everyone. They check out. Cash in the chips. Throw in the towel. Take the last bow. Exit stage left. Leave with a whimper if with anything at all.
I’m not criticizing anyone for choosing that door. Everyone has a choice to make. Individual. Personal. No one else’s.
The choices are not always because of illness or potential death.
They are also about demotions, layoffs, divorces, DUIs, breakdowns, children, loved ones passing on, or a bad car accident. All of those and many more can cause folks to hang it up. Give up. Surrender. No mas, no mas.
Besides, we are ALL going to die. Eventually. I’m just voting to do it on my own terms. If I can. Not on someone else’s terms. Not the FBI’s. Or a Federal Prosecutor’s or Judge’s terms. Or a Prison Warden’s, evil boss’ terms. Or even Cancer’s terms. No thanks. Run along now. Thanks for playing…
What we need in this life — in order to live, love, and succeed as we should, at the end of it all is —
Massive Doses of Humility
They are good for you. They will keep you centered. Here are my doses. I take them regularly. After all, medication is of no use unless you actually take it regularly and consistently.
1. Life Lessons Replayed in Your Head
Not to demean or depress you. Not to live in the past. But just so you never forget why, who and what you are and what is truly important. Hit rewind and Replay the humbling experiences of your life. And feel them.
- I would fall asleep most nights looking up at the bunk of my cell mate right above me. It’s etched in my brain, and keeps my bow aimed in the right direction. I replay that. And hear very clearly the squeaky noises the springs would make when my “Bunkee” tossed and turned.
- I had to stand in line to take a shower. Wait my turn. The line was 8 to 10 deep. Many times it was a cold shower. Not because I was following someone’s Self Improvement regimen as blogged on Medium. Because there was no hot water. I replay that. And how the stinging cold felt.
- I ate bitter, boiled collard greens 3 or 4 times a week. It was the only “vegetable” available. I dislike collard greens intensely. But I became quite grateful that I had something to stick in my hungry belly. I replay that. And the taste and texture of a forkful comes back to me.
- I put up with insults and demeaning comments from prison guards and staff. Belittling us. Telling us how our wives and girlfriends were surely cheating on us while we were away. I replay that. And I hear the words.
You might ask, why do I torture myself that way? Why dredge up the past? Well, I don’t wallow in it. It’s not torture. It doesn’t hurt me. I can hold it in my hand, turn it around, and look at it objectively. Keeps me grateful. Who I am, where I am and what I have. It keeps me humble. That’s the whole point.
2. Other’s Examples
Look around. This is my list of 10 examples. Don’t argue with me about MY list. You will miss the point. Just look around and create your own list. It’s meant to be an example for YOU. Of people who lost sight of the important. Allowed their largess, pride and ego to get the best of and destroy them.
The sole purpose is to help keep you humble.
- Richard Nixon
- Bernie Madoff
- Tiger Woods
- Kanye West
- Charlie Sheen
- Bill Cosby
- Roseanne Barr
- Michael Cohen
- Paul Manafort
- # 45
3. Nightly Self Inventory
I perform a nightly check-in with myself. It’s called the 4Gs. The Gs stand for:
- Good — what was good about the day?
- Glitches — what glitches did I run into and what could’ve gone better?
- Grateful — what should I be grateful for today?
- Goals — what are the main goals I want to accomplish tomorrow?
The 4 Gs It’s my nightly ritual. According to researchers, having a nightly ritual like this one provides many great benefits. Promoting good physical as well as well as mental health. I wrote a blog post about the 4G here.
Here Is a Simple Ritual That Works For Me
By the way, do us both a favor and establish your own. I’m not suggesting you blindly copy or adopt mine. After all, my prescription allows me to see and read more clearly. But I wouldn’t suggest you use my glasses to improve your own vision.
4. Trusted Coach and Mentor
Find someone who agrees to informally coach or mentor you. About humility. Talk to them frequently about you and how you act, behave, and play with others. Listen to them. Or else you are wasting your and their time.
Just make sure it’s someone who is willing, and capable of giving you unadulterated and unfiltered feedback. About you. You have blind spots about this stuff. A good “coach” will tell you what you can’t see about yourself.
Better yet, hire a coach.
Engage a professional coach. One who is trained and experienced, and who’s life mission is to help people realize their vision and establish their WHY. To find their passion and their reason for being.
And to stay humble while doing it.
And on the topic of Blind Spots? I wrote an article about eliminating Blind Spots last December in The Ascent. It might be worth your time.
5 Strategies That Will Eliminate Your Blind Spots And Make You Unstoppable
It would be great to establish a Pridefuls Anonymous. PA. Just like AA, NA, and all of the As. Pride is indeed a significant element that is covered and treated extensively in the 12 Steps.
But a lot of people with this disease— Excessive Pride and Hubris — because it is a disease — an addiction like one to any other substance — are going to say, “well, I am not an alcoholic or an addict, so this AA stuff is not for me.”
But it is for you. Because it’s a big reason why people fail. I truly believe, if you suffer from this, you never get over it. It will be difficult to develop humility. Not impossible, but it will be a constant battle. Therefore, you will need to be aware and treat it continuously.
Your call to action is to review the Doses above, and take some or all of that medicine. Good things will happen to you. While I can’t guarantee it, I am quite confident you will experience great results. Realize good outcomes.
I’ll leave you with one last thought —
If you declare that you are humble, then you are most definitely not…
Just let it be a byproduct of your new practices.
This is a Leadership Lesson. Visit my publication Simple and Practical Leadership and follow me for more useful, and practical Leadership Wisdom.
I help Leaders bring some order to a complicated and chaotic world.
This Is How I Reaped the Awesome Value of Lessons in Humility was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.