The Conspiracy of False Humility
About 15 years ago I had this friend from church named Steve. Steve was early 30’s, young kids, in the “compression zone” of life. Had some kind of OK job, was paying the bills (barely, I suspect, like most of us) and squeaking by.
Then one day he got handed a BIG promotion at a big company. Handsome salary, lots of responsibility, running an entire department.
He felt overwhelmed.
He was besieged with self-doubts. It was like that Talking Heads song:
And you may find yourself
behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself
in a beautiful house
with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-
Well…How did I get here?
I remember him talking to several of us, saying, “Guys, I am totally unqualified to do this job. I don’t know why they gave it to me. I do not believe I have what it takes. I believe the honest, Godly thing for me to do is step down and go work on myself for a few years.”
It sounded OK to me, I guess. I wasn’t sure what to think at the time. I thought “Wow, I wish I had his humility.”
He stepped down. He got some other kind of job that paid half as much.
The next few years were very hard for him, and it took him a very long time to recover from that.
Now, 15 years later, I have a very definite opinion about what happened to Steve.
What happened to him was what I like to call “Favor.” God handed him a nice big strawberry. God said, “Here, Steve, you can handle this. Man up. You can do it.”
But he doubted himself. That’s all it took for that fear demon to start whispering in his ear: “You know Steve, the honest thing to do is just admit you don’t have what it takes and stop lying to everybody.”
Moses had the same convo with God in the wilderness, at the burning bush. Exodus 3. God tells him all this stuff He wants Moses to do – which is totally overwhelming if you think about it.
Moses feels like a fraud. An argument ensues. Moses says, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
God pledges that his brother Aaron will help, and God Himself will put words in Moses’ mouth.
15 years ago I would have never said to Steve, “Seize the day, dude. Just go do that job, enjoy the perks, and God will give you answers when you hit a brick wall.”
But today I would absolutely say that to him.
If everyone did what Steve did, NOBODY would accomplish anything daring or great. Nobody would start a business or a church or start a band or a restaurant or invent anything. Nobody would take charge of any job they weren’t already qualified to do. Cuz hardly any of us are qualified when we start.
That mountain IS bigger than you.
OK… It is bigger NOW.
It won’t be LATER. Because YOU are going to grow.
EVERY GREAT PERSON IN THE WORLD, IF THEY ARE HONEST WITH THEMSELVES, feels like a fraud. At least for awhile.
Steve should have accepted that job, told his boss “I probably need 2X as much training as everyone else who’s taken that job, and I’m asking you to commit to give me the support I need to do this job.”
And then he could have invested double overtime to acquire the skills he needed.
That’s what you do. That’s the force that fashions boys into men and girls into women.
Biting off the challenge and just DOING it.
And yes, asking for Wisdom when Wisdom is necessary.
Being “small” is NOT humility. Humility is: recognizing your limitations AND WORKING AROUND THEM however necessary. People totally appreciate a guy who admits that he doesn’t know how to do a specific part of his job and asks for help.
Humility is also accepting and acknowledging the gifts you do have, and using them without shame.
What people hate is POSERS – people who don’t know, but pretend to. Everybody hates posers.
Being an entrepreneur is never about being a poser. It’s about stepping up and doing what absolutely needs to be done, however it can get done, and accepting the challenge in front of you. It’s about availing yourself of whatever help, whatever counsel you need to get you through.
SOMEBODY knows how to solve it. And you can find them.
Never forget that. I welcome your comments.
P.S. “We may be content to remain what we call ‘ordinary people’: but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit is not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.” -C.S. Lewis
Perry Marshall – www.perrymarshall.com/bio