Growing up, sports stars were my heroes. I was always fascinated with the life stories of Gale Sayers, Cal Ripken Jr., Jackie Robinson, and others like them. They were the “great ones.” All professional athletes have at least one thing in common in addition to athletic ability: self-confidence. Without it, they would not compete at that level. But the really “great ones” who have become legends and role models have something else: humility. I believe the real power of these heroes as human beings and as athletes came from that sense of humility.
The humility I’m talking about is not some timid or apologetic approach to life. It’s a view of the world that looks beyond your own ego. It allows you to see the greatness in others and how we depend on them for fulfillment of our dreams. People with this kind of humility are better leaders, better team players, and better human beings. They are able to do more and be more precisely because they are not obsessed with being the center of everything.
Years ago, in Larry Bird’s prime, the New York Times presented an article calling him the “Consummate Player,” even though he was flat footed and less athletically gifted then most professional basketball players. Larry Bird recognized what he lacked and committed to working harder and doing more in order to compensate. Humility allowed him to recognize his weaknesses and find ways to make them strengths.
As a ninth grade student that is very active in sports, I am a witness of this concept. I was very honored to be given the opportunity to be named the captain of both the football and basketball teams. It was a great experience for me. I was put in a spot to lead and help other teammates grow as we worked for the same goal. Seeing many examples of what can come from too much self-confidence, and how that can hurt a team, I promised myself to never be that kind of player. When someone can be an example of humility they strengthen their team and are vital to a teams ultimate success.
The sports world isn’t the only example of this principle: it’s just the easiest. The principle is even more profound outside of sports, though it is less obvious to modern society. The humility of world leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi had a much greater impact then that of any sports figure. The point is, true greatness in any pursuit depends on a sense of humility.
Anyone who is good at what they do will develop self-confidence. That confidence will enhance their performance. Those fortunate enough to develop a sense of humility (before or after they find popularity) will have the power to be really great. They will not only recognize their abilities and strengths, but by seeing the bigger picture they will be able to accurately asses where they can contribute the most and make the biggest difference. This is real power.