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.


Finding Pillars of Certainty Amidst the Walls of the Unknown

One of my big fears around quitting my job (I gave notice this exact time last year) was the fear of boredom or burn-out. What if I tire of the very things that bring in money . . . then what? The paychecks won't keep rolling in if I suddenly just stop. doing. the. work. At the time, I remember reconciling that fear by saying, "So what? I probably WILL outgrow my business. In fact, surely that will happen, as it is a natural part of evolution. So I will cross that bridge when I get to it."

In a way, that bridge is here.

But it is showing up a little differently. It is not boredom, it is uncertainty (see Jonathan Fields' must-read book on this topic).

It's a big fat question mark around the topic of What's Next ←inter-capitalized followed by "dunh dunh dunnnnh" since this is one of the questions I get most often -- and maybe you too (especially if you're a recent grad or in any sort of career transition). 

The Man and I were talking this weekend about career change and relationships. Oftentimes we pin our hopes and dreams on one specific person or one dream company, and we Declare ClarityI am CLEAR! I know what I want! I want THIS job or THIS person . . . and we narrow our focus into a tiny dot on the map of our lives, oftentimes even becoming obsessed with it.

But as the popular saying goes, "The Universe doesn't give you want you want, it gives you what you need."

How many times have we lusted after The Hot Guy (or Girl) or The Hot Company, only to realize that what we actually need is completely different?

Perhaps what we really need is more depth, more opportunity, more flexibility, more meaning. Almost always, the new surprise is that which will best facilitate our own personal growth. Besides, that new job or person might be perfectly sexy in their own right! See Tara Gentile's related post on finding your passion today, The Danger of Searching for your One True Love

Expand your view

As my dad once wisely pointed out to me, by pinning our expectations -- our "clarity" -- on one fixed star in the sky, we miss the universe of opportunity that surrounds it. We miss the beauty of discovering what it is that we actually need.

For some reason (for which I am very grateful!), the "keeper" emails, tweetsbook reviews, and even coaching inquiries have really been rolling in since I returned from my trip.

I'm humbled and incredibly grateful . . . and curious.

I know without a doubt that my purpose is serve you (all of you -- not just twenty-somethings!) and yet I'm not sure exactly how to define it, beyond sitting in the middle of this uncertainty and telling you about it when I can find the words.

In a way, my fear of not knowing what's next for my business is here.

I'm finding it hard to commit to much of anything that isn't directly tied to what I love (like coaching and Make Sh*t Happen).

But you know what? I'm loving it. Most of the time, save for a few sporadic breakdowns here or there :)

Sure, sometimes sitting in the dusty pit of uncertainty sucks. But if you can be with your uncertainty from a place of feeling grounded in your most important guiding values and principles, you can keep the faith that it will all turn out okay.

Finding comfort in pillars of certainty

Even though I don't know exactly what the next year will bring in terms of my overall message, products, services, etc -- I know that I wouldn't change a damn thing.

I haven't regretted, even for a minute, my decision to quit my "dream job" at Google, as much as I love and greatly respect the company.

In the past year, I have built -- and am now standing within -- a few key pillars of certainty that are providing the space for me to sit with the questions and the unknown of this present moment.

Those pillars are my values and my highest ideals for my life and business: freedom and autonomy, flexibility and travel, meaning and growth, health (mind, body, spirit), fun and service.

Because I am clear on those pillars, the uncertainty within the walls is okay -- it's manageable, interesting, and even enjoyable as I'm starting to say no to anything that doesn't feel like "essential bliss."

How does this apply to other areas?

  • A job search: what are your must-haves for your next job? What principles must the company, location and responsibilities adhere to, even if you don't yet know the specifics of the role you want? You may even still end up with The Hot One, but hopefully with a greater sense of clarity on what it is you want and need -- not just because that's what what would generate the most external approval for your ego. Check out the Plan Your Next Career Move template to help articulate your thoughts in this area.
  • In a relationship: what are your must-haves for your significant other? What type of person would light you up and add to your life? What qualities of the relationship (e.g. honesty, trust, deep conversation, chemistry) must be present? Relationships are as complex as the people in them -- surely your partner will not be perfect. So what bigger pillars will make the bumps in the road, the slow reveal of their imperfections and those of the relationship, manageable and even catalysts for growth?
  • Overall values: Check-out the Wheel of Life and Wheel of Aliveness tempaltes to gain clarity on the environment, people and circumstances that bring the most joy, growth and fulfillment to your life.

One more thing: expect disappointment . . . and welcome it

So you broaden your view from one star to the entire constellation. You expand your search from THE HOT ONE to a range of potential jobs or mates that are best suited to your values and goals. Then what?

Expect to be disappointed.

Expect to get the job and have it not live up to your ideal. Expect your new job (or mate) to drudge up your insecurities, weaknesses, resistance, and self-doubt.

Expect to meet someone, start a relationship glittered with gold dust, and soon realize you are both flawed (shocker!) and that your relationship will ask you to walk right through the valley of your deepest fears.

On this subject, John Welwood, author of Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, is my new guru -- again thanks to The Man for the heads up on Welwood's brilliant work - you can read some free articles here.

Before you write me off as a total curmudgeon:

I'm only saying this to help you -- all of us -- remember that hitting the dip, feeling that bubble burst a little bit -- is not only okay, it's not only perfectly normal, but that it is INHERENT TO THE GROWTH PROCESS.

So, when we reach disappointment in a new job, uncertainty at a crossroads in our career or business, divergent views within a relationship -- GOOD! Celebrate! That information is just as valid as the hopes and dreams that preceded it.

As my dad put it in response to Martha Beck's fantastic article, Enjoyment in the Waiting, "When your dreams get crushed - make dream wine! And get dream drunk and create some marvel from outta the wreckage."

While all-consuming disappointment would surely be a red flag, a taste of it is a sign that we're doing something right:

We're living, we're growing, and we're asking the big questions.


Life After College goes Korean

In exciting news, the first copies of the Random House Korea edition of my book arrived this week! Here's a picture of the interior….now if only I could read it :)

Life After College Book in Korean!

Where in your life are you pounding on unlocked doors?

It's as if you're pounding on the massive doors of the kingdom of your wildest dreams. At first lightly, even respectfully, then, losing patience, louder and louder. You pray. You plead. You beg. You ask. You cry. You wail. And just on the other side of the door, your faithful, adoring subjects silently writhe, some quietly crying, all intensely feeling your frustration and loneliness. Yet they remember all too well how, on the day you left, you made them swear not to ever open the door, so that you might discover for yourself...

...that it was left unlocked.

I hate when that happens, The Universe (Mike Dooley of

I read this quote in Dooley's book, Manifesting Change*, earlier this week and I haven't been able to forget it. After sharing this note, Dooley asks, "What doors have you been pounding on?" Which got me thinking about some questions for all of us.

I urge you to take five minutes to close your eyes (well, after reading) and really think about the following:

  • Are you missing the obvious - the unlocked door - in any problems you are facing?
  • Where in your life are you trying to force changes that you might not be ready for?
  • Where are you straining with all your might without getting any results?
  • Where might it be time for a different, softer, more trust-based approach?
  • In what ways is the door - the world you so desire - already here, in front of you?

It might take you a few days (or weeks) to answer these questions...but start by becoming aware of the doors you might be (unnecessarily) pounding on and let me know what you find out.

A Personal Example:

I can definitely say that ever since I posted the Open Letter to Love, I've felt completely free and clear of relationship worries. I immediately felt the weight of the world lifted -- I became so relaxed and happy, and I haven't looked back since. It feels so good to openly declare to the world that I am going to stop straining for something that just isn't meant to be right now.

In fact, I would be hard pressed to even commit to a relationship if one came around! After I posted the letter, one friend was concerned that I was just giving up, but my decision to walk away from trying to "law of attract" a relationship (bleh) has helped me embrace my own life and dreams more fully than I ever have.

The minute I stopped pounding down the door o' looove I found true FREEDOM. I let out -- as my yoga teacher says -- "a loud sighing AHHHhhhhhhhhhh." I get a big smile on my face just thinking about it. :)

Your turn for a public declaration - what unlocked doors will you stop pounding down?


*I don't really recommend the book if you're looking for "starter" self-help - it's a little too out there in parts - but I love (and always get a great laugh out of) Dooley's daily Notes from the Universe emails. For a list of my favorite development books, check out my fancy schmancy Amazon store or follow my reviews on GoodReads.

On Limerence...and - wait for it - a break-up processing template. You heard me.

Yep, I've gone and templateized getting over someone. Don't judge me. More on that in a few minutes. First, a lesson and some thoughts on a crazy emotional love-related roller-coaster called Limerence. What is Limerence? Hint: if Love and Lust had a baby...

If Love and Lust had a baby, they would name her Limerence. Limerence is a little crazy. She is wildly optimistic, hopeful, and obsessive. From Wikipedia:

Limerence is an involuntary cognitive and emotional state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one's feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship (although it can further intensify the situation). The term was coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov to describe the ultimate, near-obsessive form of romantic love. Limerence is sometimes also referred to as infatuation, or is colloquially known as a crush, but in reality it is something much different.

Does that sound familiar? Have you ever experienced limerence? Reflecting on that question was like asking myself, "Do you breathe?!"

Earlier this year, my dad could see that I was love-struck over a boy I couldn't really have. Instead of lecturing, judging or advising, he simply wrote the name of a book on an index card. That index card and book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love by Dorothy Tenov, changed everything for me.

This is your brain. This is your brain on Limerence.

When we fall in lovelikelust (aka limerence) with someone, it's almost like our limerent brain becomes a form of the lizard brain. If the lizard brain's currency is fear, the limerent brain's currency is fantasy. Sometimes we have fun living in fantasyland...but not when it becomes a torture chamber representing everything we want but can't have.

It is inherent to the definition of limerence that the object of our affection - the romance of our dreams - is unattainable. Which is what makes limerence very different from love. Love is shared and reciprocated and eventually grows and develops into something real. Elisa breaks down the limerence experience beautifully in a post called Limerence and Licorice.

Components of Limerence (from Wikipedia):

  • Limerence involves intrusive thinking about the limerent object.Other characteristics include acute longing for reciprocation, fear of rejection, and unsettling shyness in the limerent object's presence. In cases of unrequited limerence, transient relief may be found by vividly imagining reciprocation from the limerent object.
  • Feelings of limerence can be intensified through adversity, obstacles, or distance. A limerent person may have acute sensitivity to any act, thought, or condition that can be interpreted favorably. This may include a tendency to devise, fabricate, or invent "reasonable" explanations for why neutral actions are a sign of hidden passion in the limerent object.
  • A person experiencing limerence has a general intensity of feeling that leaves other concerns in the background. In their thoughts, a limerent person tends to emphasize what is admirable in the limerent object and to avoid any negative or problematic attributes.

What if you are Limerent and it is making you miserable, but you can't move on?

Tennov doesn't really answer this question in her book. She essentially throws her hands in the air and says, "beats me!"

I think the only way to counter the limerent brain's pining is to ask, "What is REAL?" over and over again:

  • What are the FACTS?
  • How do I actually FEEL, averaged out, over the course of recent days and weeks and months?
  • Finally, how can I act from a place of inner integrity based on TRUTH, not based on what-ifs?

Enter the Break-up Template!

My next book will clearly be a "quit the CRACK that is limerence" how-to manual. You know, just as soon as I learn how to conquer that crazy beast in its strongest moments.

This template is an exercise from my upcoming book (mark your calendar for March 29, baby!). If you are going through a break-up or still trying to get over someone, the questions in this template will help you sort through your thoughts, mourn your losses, and start to see your situation more clearly.

Download the template here (and forward to a friend or give 'er a rating if you like what you see!).

I want to hear from you. If you found this template helpful, would you let me know? Did I miss anything? How do you handle break-ups? Any limerence-busting tips?


All You Need is Love E-Book - Now Available!

Speaking of Love and Limerence, my dear friend Elisa just released her free "All You Need" e-book, a compilation of posts in which 28 bloggers pontificated on love (myself included) back in February. Download your copy by hopping over to Elisa's latest post here.

Happy Turkey Day!

To all of my American readers -- have a wonderful Thanksgiving!! For those living in other countries, I promise to eat a few extra cupcakes for you :)