Being Humble Is Nothing To Brag About


Family, friends and other mourners gathered after the funeral, as tradition would have it, at the home of the deceased for evening prayers and comfort. Grandpa was the patriarch of the family, the founder of the business, and a Lt. Colonel in Patton’s army during World War II. He knew “Old Blood & Guts” Patton, and Patton knew him. Grandson Brad, the third generation of the successful roofing business, missed his grandpa. As people were visiting in the home, Brad decided to go into Grandpa’s closet…just out of curiosity. Neatly tucked into a corner, seemingly never opened, was a dusty old army trunk. Alone, Brad pried it open only to discover a treasure trove of artifacts and memorabilia: a captured Nazi flag, a diary of notes and experiences, a stack of photos from the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, and other priceless items. No one ever knew this existed. Grandpa never talked about it.

As Brad shared this story with me, I could feel the pain in his voice. What stories were never told? What lessons went unlearned because the teacher wouldn’t talk about them…lessons of life, of love, of business? What pearls of wisdom were buried with the eighty-seven-year-old much-loved, brilliant MIT graduate? Brad, his family, and the world will never know.

The larger question to ask is, “Why?” Why aren’t those stories shared by older generations? Why are they kept secret, only to be buried forever with their keeper? The answer may lie in our cultural belief that if you talk about yourself, you are bragging…and that’s considered a sin. In other words, it’s best to be humble. Being humble is viewed as a positive trait that should be admired. But to the extreme mentioned above, being humble can cause emotional pain to those we leave behind.

Business owners who don’t want to make the same mistakes the founder(s) of the business made should pay special attention. When business lessons aren’t told, money is lost!

If you don’t care about how kids turn out or how your business can avoid making catastrophic financial mistakes, this isn’t for you. While it might seem odd to many that there are people out there like that, including some parents, who wear that uncaring crown…there really are. Some folks don’t think their efforts, their guidance, and their teaching will make a difference. If you are one of them, the knowledge shared here isn’t for you

We all make mistakes. We all do things we would love to take back, or re-do, re-say, or forget altogether. The mistakes each of us makes give birth to the lessons from which each of us can learn. When you think about the mistakes you’ve made and, more importantly, the pain that each mistake caused, a feeling wells up inside you. It could be a physical, financial, or emotional pain. Some mistakes are horrific, some just uncomfortable, and many cover every emotion in between.

The solutions to avoiding the pain are not complicated. They present options. One or more of the options will fill your needs and level of comfort.

I hope you’re not looking for solutions from an academic point of view. The content presented here in no way resembles a psychological study or a dissertation to prove a point of groundbreaking discovery. If you are looking for that, go to your nearest university’s business school library and thumb through the dissertations.

The lessons I have learned from working with business owners are about a much larger, more important issue, learned from large mistakes made by good people with noble intentions. They are gathered from the work I have done listening to and recording the LifeStories of hundreds of business owners, parents, and grandparents for well over a decade. As you continue reading, imagine the laughter and tears as the teller of the stories digs down from deep within their heart and soul to lovingly share their stories.

Now think of those mistakes you‘ve made in your business and in your parenting experiences. Don’t be shy. We’ve all made them. You might be asking yourself, “What were those specific business decisions I made that I wish I would not have made?” Or “What mistakes have I made as a parent?” Write down the list. Now ask yourself, “Why haven’t I recorded the stories of those mistakes and voiced the lessons learned?” The most common answers to that question are: 1. “Just haven’t thought of it.” 2. Being too humble about your personal importance or about the importance of the lesson itself. 3. Procrastination. “It’s not the right time to teach that lesson.” “I’ll teach that lesson when they are ready to hear it.”

If you truly don’t want the same mistakes you’ve made to be repeated, then think of one now. Dive deep into the story of the mistake. Write down the mistake in one sentence first, then make a list of what caused it, what you would do differently to avoid it in the future and, most importantly, what lessons you learned from living through the mistake.

If you think you are being too humble about your personal importance or about the importance of the lesson itself, remember this important fact: Lessons learned aren’t just for you. Ask yourself, “Do you want your kids, executive team, managers, or employees to make the same mistakes you made?” If the answer is, “No”, then realize being humble is almost guaranteeing they will make the same mistakes! This isn’t about you…it’s about them. Help them avoid the pain you suffered in your past.

When, then, is the right time to record those stories and teach those lessons? Now! How many times have you wished someone had warned you about “that” so you would have avoided making the mistake? Well, YOU are that someone. And whether you feel like it or not, now is the time to teach the lesson. Even if you think, for whatever reason, the student isn’t ready for the teacher to appear, record the story now. You might not be around when the student is ready to listen and learn.

If Brad’s grandpa had recorded his stories of war, shared his lessons from mistakes made while starting and growing the business, who knows? The business might now be the largest roofing business in the United States, not “just” the eleventh largest! And, most importantly, Brad would feel closer to his grandpa than he feels now.