Character & Mental Toughness- Humility


Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”-Augustine

“Humility, that low, sweet root, from which all virtues shoot.” –Thomas More

A person who is humble realizes that they have tremendous room for growth. They realize that there are so many people out there who are so much more skilled and knowledgeable than they are. People that are humble realize that, given a bit of misfortune or different circumstances, they could very easily be much worse off than they are today. People who are humble realize that they can always get better. They are aware of how much more they can still learn and achieve.

People who are not humble are in jeopardy of proving themselves to be foolish. They seem to know only a small part of the world they live in. They are experts only in their own narrow perspective of the world.

“To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.” – Bruce Lee

As a coach, I often encounter young people who are not humble. These players have often had success at the youth level and think they are better than they are. This is not to say that they lack natural ability. However, as they enter secondary school they find that others catch them or pass them by because they grow in character while the youth star is still largely dependent on his natural ability.

In my conversations and reading I often find that humility seems to be a source of generational conflict. One of the difficulties older generations encounter when dealing with younger generations is the latter’s apparent lack of humility. The young have come of age in an era where it was common for their parents to not allow them to make mistakes, self-inflicted or otherwise. Because this group has never been allowed to fail, they have seldom been humbled. Failure can be the most important catalyst of humility.

The first time they are humbled can be traumatic. Sometimes this results in drama between the triad of parent, player and coach; the coach expecting player humility, the player and parent expecting automatic success. In these situations it is important to eliminate anger and frustration and try to resolve the conflict. Unfortunately, and ironically, a lack of humility by any or all of these parties can get in the way of such resolution.

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, & the world around us.” –Socrates

Organizations often have built in indoctrinations which serve to “break people down so they can build them back up.” Their purpose is to instill a sense of humility which either consciously or subconsciously leaves the new member vulnerable and eager to find new ways to succeed. This occurs as the new member finds their previous knowledge or skill set will not be enough to allow them to thrive or even survive in their new environment. The organization and it’s seasoned members, often instinctively, recognize that if the new member is going to become a valued contributor they must first become willing to adopt the ways of the organization.

Unfortunately, when these indoctrinations are combined with hostility and ignorance hazing occurs. This is obviously to be avoided and caution should be taken in a humbling situation.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao-tzu

Often humility results from an initial my way or your way struggle between the new member and more experienced members of the group. As is human nature, the new member will seek the easiest path and expect the group to accept him as he is. When the new member is confronted with the fact that this easy way is not available, they will often quit and find an organization, activity, or occupation which requires less growth and adaptation.

“I won every championship because Cus told me what to do.”- Mike Tyson

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” -Socrates

The first foundation of our football program is “Do what you are coached to do.” Most of our players find this exceedingly difficult. They want to use their own methods. Because we work with adolescents a certain element of patience is required. Unfortunately, more often than not, a new player must fail using his method, sometimes multiple times, before he is humble enough to accept direction and put forth the required amount of effort and sacrifice needed to improve his performance.

Players that arrive in our program humble are more likely to have initial success. Simply put, they are ready to do their best at whatever is asked of them.

As coaches, we often talk to players about constantly getting better on and off the field.

Before one can get better one must first be humble. In order to continue to improve, one must maintain their humility. A person or team that is not humble cannot get better. This is because they think they already have everything mastered. They think they already have done enough. They think they already know all of the answers.

They get satisfied, even a little lazy. They think the way they worked yesterday was good enough, so they struggle to work even harder today.

They stay still.

“Humility is really important because it keeps you fresh and new” – Steven Tyler.

The only way to continuously get better is to continue to stay humble.

There is a simple way to do this by tapping into natural competitiveness.

Once you’ve beaten out the competition in your organization or community, envision the competition in those nearby. Then envision the competition in the state etc. Then compete against those people every day. Not just in scheduled practice, but in study and training on your own.

For example, you may be the best player, or teacher, or businessman in your town, but are you the best in your region? The best in the state? The best in your country? The best in the history of those places? Are you out working your competitor down the street, in the next town or on the other side of the world?

How can a person determine if they are being humble?

Well, a great way to see if you’re staying humble is to see if you have had a case of the “too goods.” Have you been “too good” to get to places on time? “Too good” to do the grunt work? “Too good” to help out the less experienced members of your group? “Too good” to clean up after yourself? “Too good” to study and train? “Too good” to say please and thank you? “ “Too good” to apologize? “Too good” to be corrected or learn something new? “Too good” to recognize areas where you can improve?

See, if you want to be great you stay humble. If you stay humble you always keep the mindset that you need to improve. If you keep the mindset that you need to improve, you keep working. If you keep working you keep getting better.


“Without humility of heart all the other virtues are absolutely worthless.” –Angela of Foligno

379. There is no arguing with a narcissist.-coachbillmoore, A Coach’s Son: List of Lessons


About coachbillmoore

Educator/Author/Speaker/HS & NCAA Coach Character Coach Read Coach Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness” Paperback available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. "The measure of your character and mental toughness is the space between what you are doing and what you could be doing." -Coach Bill Moore
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2 Responses to Character & Mental Toughness- Humility

  1. allthewaydoc says:

    outstanding post! humility far exceeds pride when it comes to achieving great success!

  2. pro356rick says:

    Great post and appreciate your depth of research and thought.

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