The Most Important Word in the Dictionary

By Davis Nguyen

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."

—C. S. Lewis

Humility isn’t a sexy word.

As recent college graduates, we are so eager to show the world what we have to offer. What we lack in experience, we make up for in our readiness to accept every opportunity coming at us – even if we don’t know what we signed on for. It is no surprise then that embracing humility is so hard; it means accepting our weaknesses. It means showing, instead of hiding, our imperfections. Imperfections we believe will keep us from getting the job we desire, being with the people we want, and living the life we dream of.

But the more we try to mask our imperfections, the more we miss out on the same opportunities we are seeking. We doom ourselves to repeat the same mistakes; we turn away people who want to help us; and we deny ourselves opportunities to grow. The outcome from making a mistake at 26 is not the same as if you make it at 36. The question is, will you learn at 26 or repeat it at 36?

But accepting humility doesn’t come from reading a “how-to” guide or waiting for an epiphany. It comes in gradual acceptances of who you are.

  • It means being proud of your accomplishments without being prideful.
  • It means thinking about how your actions will affect others.
  • It means taking responsibility for your mistakes.
  • It means admitting you don’t know everything.

Humility isn’t sexy, but it makes you more attractive.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

What trait in a person do you admire the most?

Davis Nguyen

About Davis

Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.


On Seasons

Fall Leaves There's been a distinct shift in the New York City weather this week -- as dresses and flip-flops retired with the humidity of summer, they made way for the boots and beanies that signal the crisp, brisk and decidedly here-to-stay Fall.

Maybe it's the Californian in me, not yet fully adjusted to having actual seasons, or the simple fact of being a living, breathing animal on this planet -- but I'm noticing a distinct shift in myself as well.

I turn 29 today and have been finding myself in a reflective mood (common theme this year . . . don't say I didn't warn you!). As I've talked about in the past, birthdays are a my personal New Year's -- they are a time for reflecting on the year prior and setting intentions for what's to come.

So today as I enter the last year of a very full decade, for which I have much to be thankful for, I'm letting a few others' wise words take the floor. (And a quick aside to say THANK YOU to everyone who has left such wonderful Facebook notes, tweets, texts, emails and messages today!) 

Nevine Michaan - On Seasons

I went to a yoga workshop this weekend by Nevine Michaan, an incredible woman and teacher who has been studying Taoist theory and sacred geometry for the last 25+ years, and she reminded us that we do best to live, move, and practice yoga by the seasons.

As the Tao says:

"Ten thousand beings carry yin on their backs and embrace yang in their front, Blending these two vital breaths to attain harmony."

According to Michaan, we attain our own harmony by honoring and becoming the master of our own universe; moving energy through our internal nature while being aware of the changes in the outer world around us.

As the seasons go, Michaan says that Spring represents our vision and potential, Summer is for setting goals and seeing them to fruition, Autumn is for patience and reflection, and Winter is for hibernation, substantiation, and making effort.

In this video from 2009, I talked about birthdays and transitions being a time of shedding our old skin (just as snakes do) so that we can make room for what's next. But -- there's a time of being naked in the middle of it -- as we let go of the old and explore what's next. (See one of my favorite related articles on transition, The Parable of the Trapeze.)

The nakedness is our vulnerability, our rawness, our core -- without the protection of the ego or our outer world -- and what's next comes with time, patience, reflection and intentional action (sprinkled with a little crazy too). :)

Khalil Gibran - On Time 

Excerpted from The Collected Works of Khalil Gibran, one of my favorite books of poetry (particularly The Prophet, which you can read online here).

You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable. You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons. Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness, And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream. And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space. Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless? And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not from love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds? And is not time even as love is, undivided and spaceless?

But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons, And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.

Cheryl Strayed - On Stretching

This quote is excerpted from an incredible book I just finished called Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar -- a compilation of poignant, wise, moving essays from Cheryl Strayed's Dear Sugar column on TheRumpus.net. Full credit to Grace Boyle for this book recommendation, from her beautiful blog post Matters of the Heart.

When asked about advice for people in their twenties: "Be as magnanimous as you can be . . . because it's harder to be magnanimous when you're in your twenties, I think, so I'd like to remind you of it. You're generally less humble in that decade than you'll ever be and this lack of humility is oddly mixed with insecurity and uncertainty and fear. You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love."


Bonus: Yoga on the Rocks

Speaking of yoga -- below are a few recent pictures from a visit to Joshua Tree National Park in CA. Thank you to The Man -- who has been one of my greatest gifts this past year -- for the vision, talent and creative genius to make these happen :)

Yoga at Joshua Tree

Yoga on the Rocks! Jenny at Joshua Tree (Grasshopper Pose)

Yoga on the Rocks - Reach for it! Jenny Blake @ Joshua Tree