One day in elementary school, my teacher took me aside and asked me to be humble.
My peers had stopped raising their hands to answer her questions during class. The perception was that it was because I always raised my hand and had an answer (wasn’t always the right one though).
That moment has stayed with me. My teacher had brought my attention to how my actions were affecting others education. So I made an effort, staying my hand on questions I knew and waiting for others to volunteer.
Perhaps this is where my current classroom demeanor comes from: I never raise my hand. I’ll whisper my thoughts to my friends near me, and sometimes they volunteer an answer. At this point, it has become a habit instead of an active choice. I’m not thinking about my peers and their learning, and I don’t think I do this because of the potential embarrassment of getting a question wrong. I know that participating in class is important but for some reason this is how I still behave.
I aim to be down to earth, to try and be humble in everything that I do. I really like the term grounded, if not only for it’s meaning but for the imagery that my mind conjures up. I see an old oak’s roots stretch into the ground, becoming indistinguishable from the surround landscape, but having a firm grasp everywhere they touch.
While reading The Last Lecture, a book by Randy Pausch, I was reminded of humility.
“It’s been well-documented that there is a growing sense of entitlement among young people. I have certainly seen that in my classrooms.
So many graduating seniors have this notion that they should get hired because of their creative brilliance. Too many are unhappy with the idea of starting at the bottom.
My advice has always been: ‘You ought to be thrilled you got a job in the mailroom. And when you get there, here’s what you do: Be really great at sorting mail.’
No one wants to hear someone say: ‘I’m not good at sorting mail because the job is beneath me.’ No job should be beneath us. And if you can’t (or won’t) sort mail, where is the proof that you can do anything?”
It’s so gratifying for someone to put a thoughts that I have into words, just way more eloquently than I ever could. The entitlement is real, and it directly opposes my views and work ethic. Again to quote Randy, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”. It’s the insatiable lust for more than one has earned that grinds my gears. Of course, “earned” is a subjective term, and to those who I might label as entitled, they see themselves as a rational agent simply getting what they deserve.
I don’t believe I deserve anything: the world owes me nothing.
What I do believe is that I have the opportunity to make something of my time on earth. I love creating, especially creating for others. I love hard problems that challenge me to find a creative solution. But there isn’t a job that is below me. Make no mistake, I am not saying that there is no job that I am over qualified for. There is a distinction. Being over qualified for a job is when your skills, education, and/or experience far exceed what is necessary for a job. When you say a job is beneath you, you’re implying that the job is not good enough for you. That you are too important to perform a task. That is arrogant and entitled.
The All Blacks rugby team from New Zealand has a term called “sweep the sheds”. The phrase came from an encounter an english reporter had with two of the biggest stars on the team. He caught them literally sweeping the sheds out after a match. They were the two of the most senior athletes on the team, why were they sweeping the sheds, a task that in many other organizations would fall to the most junior members? They were leading by example. The concept is all about taking responsibilities for your actions and not having any sense of entitlement. This attitude is especially important in a team sport.
No job is beneath you, we all have to sweep the sheds. The only thing beneath you is the earth, be grounded instead.