Be Humble: Don’t Let Success Go to Your Head

image_dont-let-success-go-head

Their stories are all too common: After years of hard work pursuing the American Dream, these self-motivated high achievers reach the pinnacle of success that’s so richly deserved. And — you guessed it; they let success go to their head. Whatever happened to being humble?

These folks think they’re so special. They buy expensive “toys” to show how successful they’ve become, and they push aside colleagues who’ve helped them achieve success. They abandon the values and principles that have made them successful. And worse yet, because they’re successful in one area of their life, they come to think they’re experts in everything. Why? They’re so enamored with their own PR that their ego hardly fits in the room. Unfortunately, a swelled ego can cut short the payoff that these folks worked so hard to attain.

The simple truth is that not everyone treats success the same. Some people who achieve success remain humble, never forgetting who they are and from whence they came. The others? Well, we can learn from their mistakes:

From Humble Beginnings

Success is temporary. Success is a journey, not a destination. When you become successful, don’t rest on your laurels. As soon as you take your eye off the ball, you risk losing your edge.

Stop feeding your ego. Don’t isolate yourself from reality by building relationships with people who stroke your ego. Surrounding yourself with “yes people” is just like talking to yourself.

Compete against yourself. When you compete against others, it’s easy to emphasize winning over self-improvement. However, when you compete against yourself, you both win.

Even experts have room to learn. Never stop growing. Know your limitations and admit when you don’t know something. It’ll help to keep you grounded.

Listen up. Discover what others have to offer and ask for their opinions before opening your mouth. It shows that you value their opinions as well as their insight.

No one’s perfect. Don’t let success go to your head. Be quick to apologize for your mistakes. You’ll never learn anything or impress anyone by making excuses and diverting blame. And a little humility will remind you that you’re human.

Share your success. You may be successful, but there’s a good chance others helped you along the way. Find creative ways to share the credit and pull people up the ladder of success along with you.

Remember your roots. Remember where you came from and what you’ve learned along the way. Help others by mentoring them.

Get off your high horse. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. You may be successful, but that doesn’t make you better than anyone else.

Bragging is ugly. There’s a difference between excitement and bragging. We know you’re thrilled about your new “toy,” but others may be cutting back on their basic needs — be sensitive. As John Wooden said, “Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

Trust me. Money and success can’t buy a person’s trust or guarantee a good reputation. You earn these through your words AND actions. There’s nothing more valuable in life than integrity. Trust me.

In My Humble Opinion

Many of us come from humble beginnings. We make something of ourselves through pursuit of knowledge, integrity, hard work, and a bit of good fortune. Yes, people have every right to be proud of the success that they’ve earned. But that doesn’t give them the right to be rude or disrespectful to others.

Some people get a big thrill from boasting about their accomplishments or showing off their possessions. They’ve convinced themselves that they’re better than others are. The fact is, some folks let success go to their head, and they gain a weird satisfaction from pushing people around. That’s wrong. On the other hand, just as it’s disgusting for the “haves” to look down on others, it’s equally disdainful for “have-nots” to resent those who’ve worked hard and have rightfully earned their success.

The truth is, all the money in the world doesn’t make you a better person. It simply means that you have more money. Real wealth is achieved by appreciating what you already have in life. After all, money can’t buy everything. It can’t buy a close-knit family, good friends, a clear conscience, work-life balance, a happy home, a second chance in life, or good karma, among other things.

So, don’t let success go to your head. Be humble. Humility is a sign of strength, not weakness. People with humility possess an inner peace. They’re modest about their achievements, grounded in their values, and they have nothing to prove to others. They’re down to earth, comfortable in their own skin, and quietly proud. Humble people shift their focus from taking to giving, from talking about themselves to listening to others, from hoarding the credit to deflecting the praise, and from being a “know-it-all” to knowing there’s so much more in life worth learning. There’s no ego, no pretense, and certainly no gamesmanship. Humble people are authentic. As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Humility … What Do You Think?

Additional Reading:
Courage: No Guts No Glory
Giving: The Most Important Lesson in Life
Personal Responsibility: The Buck Stops with You

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Comments

  1. Lolly Daskal (@LollyDaskal) says

    Great Post lots of wisdom – lots to think and feel about.

    There is so much truth in what you say and yet we caught up in the external messaging of our mind what success really is.

    If we only listened more to our heart and if only we led more often from within we would understand the truth you speak of.

    Thanks so much for your wisdom and insights, it keeps us honest.

    Lolly

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Thanks so much Lolly

      People work so hard to attain success, that it’s understandable that we sometimes lose perspective.That’s why it’s important to find ways to remain grounded.

      Best,

      Frank

  2. Barbara Kimmel says

    Lolly- many people need to become more “in tune” with their heart. And, it seems in some cases, the more “success” some folks think they have, the smaller their heart gets!

    Frank- thanks for another great post. Hopefully the people who need it the most will read it!

    Barbara

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Wow Barbara. Great thought.

      “In some cases, the more ‘success’ some folks think they have, the smaller their heart gets!” I wonder what they see when they look in the mirror each morning.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Frank

  3. Deb Mills-Scofield says

    Frank – yet another wonderful post! Growing up we had 2 sayings in our home (which I’ve used in mine!):
    1. Don’t pull an Adam – e.g., take responsibility, don’t go blaming someone else (aka Eve)

    2. Don’t pull a Moishe/Moses – e.g., stay humble, give credit where credit is due. Moses hit the rock, took the credit instead of giving it to G-d and didn’t make it into the promised land…

    I’d like to think that my working to stay humble is not a gender issue, especially with all the Lean In stuff today, but one of knowing that I get help from so many…

    deb

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Hi Deb

      It’s so important that parents take the time to share their wisdom and values with their kids. With the crazy lives that so many of us lead, it’s often overlooked. As I’m fond of saying, “If you don’t pass your values onto your kids, someone else will.” Yes . . . Personal responsibility and humility are critical life lessons.

      Thank you, as always, for your encouragement and support.

      Best,

      Frank

  4. Kathy Davis (@davisfnp) says

    My 18 year old son is in his first year of college and hoping to start his own business. He sat with me just now and I read your post to him. Frank, you confirmed everything we’ve taught him over the years. And, he already gets it: he is smart, talented, and humble. Now if I could only convince him that pizza is not a food group….
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Hi Kathy

      That’s wonderful. You did good :-) It sounds like he’s a smart kid and has the values to match. He’ll go far. BTW, pizza is one of my favorite foods. So, I guess I’ll need a little convincing too.

      Have an awesome day!

      Best,

      Frank

  5. Jon Stallings says

    The greatest successes comes when you put others first. And more than likely you needed someone else’s help along the way. If we make it all about us we find ourselves in a very lonely spot.

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      I completely agree Jon.

      People who care about the needs of others and give of themselves, go much further in life. As you say, “put others first” and recognize people, who help you, along the way. As Patti Thor says, “It’s not that successful people are givers; it is that givers are successful people.”

      Have an awesome evening!

      Best,

      Frank

  6. vTwindude says

    Great article…. we allow ourselves to be pulled in so many different ways.. staying grouded is sometimes not in that tug-a-war. a lot to keep on our minds :)

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      You’re absolutely right. It’s important to set aside time to stop . . . and think.

      Best,

      Frank

  7. says

    Thank you so much for this balanced article. We all start out pursuing success, thinking it will make us better. Then before we know it we are seized by success. If we do not manage success we sink. If we manage it we rise even higher. Your article is that stabilizing anchor that we can all use to steer forward in the turbulent success waters. Well done.

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Thanks for your kind words Milton. I’m so glad the post is meaningful to you. Considering you’re in Zimbabwe, it’s fair to say that the message is universal. Thanks for taking the time to write.

      Have a great week my friend.

      Best,

      Frank

  8. Sridhar Laxman says

    Frank
    Thank you for this inspiring post, humility is such a wonderful trait to develop and practice. Our society stands to gain a lot by embracing humility as one of the key values. Also love your thoughts on ‘even experts have room to learn’. Shall certainly remind myself each time the swollen head feeling comes along.
    : )
    Best wishes
    Sridhar
    http://sridharlaxman.com

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Thank you for your kind words Sridhar. I’m so glad that you like the post.

      I think we all can use a reminder every once in a while. It helps keep us grounded.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Best,

      Frank

  9. Mae says

    Hi Frank,
    We often get caught up in our own success, that we forget the true gift of humility. So, thank you for this. It’s wonderful and so true in many, many ways.

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Hi Mae

      Thank YOU for your kind words and for taking the time to comment.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Best,

      Frank

  10. says

    Frank,
    My mom helped me come up with the topic for the theme I wrote long ago, “Man’s Inhumanity to Man.” I don’t know why but your article reminded me that there’s lots of inhumanity around. Being humble is also about putting others needs first sometimes don’t you think Frank? And it’s a pretty me first oriented society. Tony Robbins talks lots about conflicting values and I think it’s difficult to balance the difference between letting people know your worth as in letting a perspective employer know your worth or believing your own PR :)
    Regards,
    Susan Fox

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Hi Susan

      You make a very important point. Some people believe they must shout from the rooftops for others to recognize their worth. The reality is that it takes more effort to promote yourself than to concentrate on your job and do it to the best of your ability. When you provide value, your focus is on others rather than yourself.

      Sure… some folks can get away with bluffing on a short-term basis, but it’ll catch up with them over the long haul. I feel so strongly about this issue, I wrote a post “Bluffing Your Way to the Top.” http://www.franksonnenbergonline.com/blog/bluffing-your-way-to-the-top/ Check it out when you have a moment.

      Have an awesome day!

      Best,

      Frank

  11. Jeremy Nichols says

    I needed to read this article more than ever tonight…it’s almost as if it was called into my life for a reason.

    Long story short, I come from a negative childhood with unfortunate circumstances and have managed to move away at age 18 on my own and become a celebrity hairstylist by 23. I have achieved success in my career and have experienced things that some never will. I grew up a good child with good morals, never have been in trouble, always naturally just wanted to do the right thing.

    Somewhere along the journey, I let success get to my head. Possibly because it came so quickly, there was no preparing for it. I ended pushing away all of my friends and romantic partners because of my self absorbed narcisstic tendencies that we’re coming across without me realizing it. I have had many people tell me recently to be more humble and stop trying to prove myself and judge other people for not being as “successful” as I am. I feel horrible because I had no idea I was coming across so pretentious. I am just now learning the true meaning of humility and this article made everything so much clearer.

    I just turned 24 over the weekend and maybe this is just the perfect age to learn this big lesson. Thank you and god bless

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Hi Jeremy

      I’m so glad that my post resonated with you.

      It takes a very special person to look themselves in the eye and say, “it’s time to make a change.” The key is to hold your feet to the fire to make sure that you act :-)

      I can’t help thinking, “what a lucky guy.” I applaud you for the success that you’ve achieved at such an early age. In addition, many people learn important life lessons, such as humility, when they’re older and don’t have the time to see the benefits of having embraced such a change. You’re a young guy Jeremy and have your whole life ahead of you.

      On a personal note, nothing makes me happier than hearing that my article made a difference in your life. For that, I thank you. I wish you success and continued happiness in at that you do. I hope to see you back here again soon.

      Happy Birthday!!!

      Best,

      Frank

  12. Enda says

    Great perspective and very eloquently stated. My own journey is centred on ‘attaining greater Humility’ – which started with ‘knowing myself’ such that I can better empathise with others such that I can adapt my approach to their ‘comfort zone’. Your blog brings to our attention what we ‘should’ be doing, but which is hard to do if we’re constantly operating out of our ‘ego-self’ motivations. A way that I found to get a better handle on managing all this is through a program called ‘Journey into Self-Discovery’ (www.theholisticself.com ) which takes a number of references (like a GPS in the car) to help me orient myself on my life/work path. Thanks for your great insights and I’m signing up to your blog to receive more.

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