By Raju Mandhyan
A FEW months ago, by a bunch of professionals, and then a few days ago, by a bunch of human resource practitioners, I was asked, “What makes any professional move from being good to great?”
The answers to such a question usually are experience, character, courage, persistence, passion, etc. My quick and candid response the first time I was asked this was “Faith and Humility.” Their jaws dropped instantaneously and as I tried to defend my thesis, their eyes kinda’ glazed over. But people, being generally nice as they usually are, especially here in the Philippines, are at the end of my defense they all smiled and nodded their approval. In my gut, I knew that I hadn’t sold my idea well enough. But the second the same scenario occurred, I got several “Whoas” and “Awesomes” to my defense of “Faith and Humility’ for success and greatness.
Now, the why and the how of faith and humility in business and life:
First when I say faith, I mean trust and acceptance blinded in with loyalty. Then I mean faith in oneself, faith in your perspectives and then faith in your intentions and action. And, by saying this, I am also not excluding your faith in any structured form of faith. The neuropsychological benefits of all kinds of faith are amazingly similar.
The faith I am talking about is not surrendering of reason and logic and neither the total acceptance of reason and logic. I am talking about the power of goodness hammered into us, into humanity which constantly stretches out to our better and higher self. Yes, the synonyms can be trust and confidence in self. Yet the faith I am referring to is how things eventually turn out and how the larger system and collective intelligence leads us into better things and better places.
A business leader that carries this special chip on his shoulder doesn’t just increase the chances of his own success but also inspires the growth and evolution of others around him. A quick story that comes to my mind is that of a salesman from a small town who was out beating the streets of New York seeking work for a small graphic-designing business he and his wife ran from home. After three days of his being turned away and offered no work, his morale took a plunge. He began to lose “faith” in himself and in the system. At the end of the third, his wife said to him over the phone, “Honey, I just made it big in our small town lotto this afternoon, so worry not about bringing home some business.” The next day up, back on the streets of New York, very strangely, business did not just pick up but it began to pour in. Back at home on Friday night with a load of work in his bag when he hugged his wife, she told him that she really hadn’t won any lotto and she’d just said that to lift up his spirits.
I admit that like placebos her approach may not have been all too authentic but it did and does deliver positive results.
My way is that before every important interaction or intervention, I step away from the hustle and bustle of life, find a quiet place, and pause. In that moment, I ask myself: Do you have faith in yourself? Have you done all the homework that needs to have been done? Do you have a value-creating agenda? Do you care for the people you are going to deal with? Are your objectives more selfless than selfish? Do you have faith in the system and in the world of your own perceptions?
When I get a “yes” as an answer to all of them, I open the door and step in. That is my way to faith. That is my first step, like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Now for the why and how of humility towards success and greatness in life and at work:
One of the best explanations or it was probably a quote on the walls of daughter’s school, the Colegio San Agustin in the Philippines. I cannot remember the exact words but the gist of it was that the moment your mind highlights for you, or even others, that you are being humble then lady humility flies out of the window. If and when you say you are being then you are not.
Yes, the moment you make a claim towards it, then it fizzles away and turn into a monstrosity of overconfidence, pride, arrogance and ends up in consistent delusions of greatness.
Thus, humility needs to be exercised quietly and with strength towards the very same reasons from which you gather and accumulate your faith. So, not just before, during and even after all interactions and interventions, the questions I ask myself in quiet moments are: Are you even-minded and true about you and your achievements? Do you have quiet confidence in the homework you have done and are you ready for it to not serve you? Are you prepared to be rejected, turned down and even out? Are you open to the possibilities of failure? Will you be able to accept that however selfless your ideas and intentions are, they may still be regarded as self-serving?
These questions serve me well to be equanimous both in failure and even in great success. I am not claiming that I succeed at practicing these habits. I am not claiming that these practices will guarantee growth and will transcend us all social and business leaders from good to great. I am saying that in my observations and studying of great business leaders, these habits are a huge part of their natural traits. Some favorite teachers, consultants and leaders of faith follow these two paths of faith and humility. Oh, well, they are not two paths but they put together aa wheels of a bicycle with which you can traverse from being good to becoming great.
Raju Mandhyan is an author, coach and speaker.