I think the first time I ever come across the word humility, I associated with humiliation. By the time I was 8 or 9, I was quite familiar with humiliation. I had been teased a fair bit in school and often opened my big mouth, thereby, causing all sorts of troubles for myself.
It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s, that I heard the word humility and the difference brought to my attention about the word humiliation. I tried to figure out what humility meant but really struggled. Then someone explained to me that their definition of humility was being “right sized”. I got that. I could understand that humility meant that I didn’t need to puff up my ego to look better than I was nor did I have to beat myself down and play the victim or martyr roll.
It meant that if I did a good job, to acknowledge that. And, conversely, if I did a poor job to acknowledge that too. I didn’t need to dramatize either of those scenarios by adding to them. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we will all fail and succeed. It is simply acknowledging what is in front of me without adding anything to it.
One of Buffett’s biggest features is his humility. Here is an exceptionally wealthy man who lives in the same house he bought over 40 years ago, his name is not plastered all over buildings everywhere, and he doesn’t show the wealth he has. He lives simply, humbly.
Our media loves to show wealthy people living it up and highlighting their gross excesses. We have an odd fascination with individuals who are willing to show their arrogance, their ego and their wealth. They are the opposite of Buffett. While these individuals make good tabloid headlines, are not great role models for businesses or for kids.
Buffett’s success not only lies with his patience, but his humility. Too often, we see businesses that have an excellent idea fail because their owners are too busy spending money they’ve just earned rather than investing it back into the company. They want to be wealthy now; they don’t want to wait. And within a short time, they’ve lost it all.
I want my business to be successful. I realize that I could be the “millionaire next door”. I don’t need to change how I live just because I earn good money. I can stay who I am but allow myself and my kids to have extras that I might not be able to afford otherwise, like vacations away and summer camps.
I don’t need to be flashing my cash and buying all sorts of fancy things. I need to be investing back into my business and living my life pretty much as I’ve been living it so far. I like to travel but occasionally. I want my kids to be able to go to a good summer camp and have fun.
I also want them to see that contrary to the media, being rich doesn’t mean that I have to act rich and live lavishly. Buffett taught the same lessons of humility to his children. They had to earn their way. It wasn’t given to them just because he was rich. And I’m sure they’re much better off for it as well.
These are my goals: 1) become wealthy off my business; and 2) live my life with humility. From those two goals, I can teach my children to also live without excess yet still live very comfortably and I can show them that making excellent money is possible.
I think these life lessons are much better for them than getting rich and living in excess. Best way to teach humility is by living it. Buffett does just that. And I really admire him for it.