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For most of my life, I have been told that I come across to others as arrogant and cocky, and that I should spend more time learning humility. I was told I should lower myself so that I could show great character. To be honest, this was a thing I never really understood the purpose of. Mostly, I just felt like it was others who felt insignificant or insecure wanting me to come down to their level, when what I wanted was to reach higher levels. With each higher level I gained, I felt more pride in my accomplishments, which only led toward others feeling that I was arrogant.

It took me a long time to figure out the value in humility and what true humility is. For a long time I put on a the type of humility others asked of me, but it was a false face. I did not feel like I was less than them, and pretending to be only felt disingenuous.

Even today, when I make self deprecating jokes, it is often to either get people to underestimate me, or just to prevent students from ever forming a cultish reverence for me as an instructor, which is a very common problem in martial arts. It's also part of the reason I don't use the term master as a title anymore, and merely as a rank, preferring the term coach instead. But that isn't about humility but recognizing the dangers of others putting me on a pedestal.

In truth, I don't think it's wrong for a person of accomplishment to be proud of their achievements. Elon Musk seems pretty smug, but why shouldn't he be? He's a genius who is trying to make the world a better place and is one of the richest men in the world. He has good reason to be a bit smug I would say, because he is proud.

So what is this humility then?

I think real humility, not the pretend humility most people put on so others don't think they are arrogant, is 2 things.

  1. Recognition of the excellence in others. When you only focus on your own achievements, your confidence may be genuine, but it is self centered. By looking at the accomplishments of those around you, it is easy to praise them. Rather than bring yourself down, you raise them up. In martial arts, this becomes easy to see, as people gain rank, win tournaments, become proficient in technique, or have a great moment in sparring. But it carries to outside life too. Take a moment to give appreciation to your coworkers, friends, and family successes.

  2. Awareness of your limitations. You can celebrate the things you are good at, so long as you are aware they don't transfer to all parts of your life. Know that while you may be excellent at kicking, you may struggle with boxing. While you may be excellent at striking, you may lack proficiency on the ground. While you may be a great overall martial artist, your de la riva guard could use some tuning up. But it goes beyond the mat. You may be great at martial arts, but how well do you perform at work? You may be knowledgeable about work and martial arts, but does that make you an expert in politics. Don't be afraid to ask questions and admit to yourself or others you don't know a thing. It is tempting to always present yourself as the expert, so try to take a moment and check that impulse, and ask if there is more you can learn.

Perhaps I still have more to learn on the subject of humility, and that is where I still come up short, but this is the best of my limited knowledge.

Coach Greg

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