Archive for March, 2020

Humility in a haughty world

Legend at birthIn his book Good to Great, business guru Jim Collins describes what he calls “Level Five Leadership,” and why it’s so hard to achieve.

Level Four is mainly attained by a person’s drive to make it to the top. Ambition, talent, egotism and self-fulfillment characterize the ascent.

But Collins’ “Level Five” leaders also have a humility that makes them truly transformational people. They have ample motivation, extreme knowledge and special skills, but they also know it’s not all about them.

Here’s the irony: Everything that catapults a leader to Level Four works against him or her in the jump to Level Five. That’s why, Collins says, not many people get there.

When I look around our world today, I see growing levels of hubris, pride, arrogance and self-aggrandizing. Heck, we even put lines like “Future Hall of Famer” (and worse) on toddler tee shirts.

At a middle school B-team basketball game recently, a player blocked a shot, and then towered over his victim with heavy taunting.

I thought, in a measure of disbelief, “This is middle school! And B-team at that!”

Professional sports drive a lot of it. Kids just mimic what they see. Practically every play nowadays is punctuated with a Super Bowl-level celebration.

The concept “act like you’ve been there before” has flown the coop, along with “let your play do the talking.”

The entertainment culture contributes cockiness, too. The more highly one thinks of himself, the more likely a fifteen minute run of fame will last to sixteen.

Social media perpetuates a look-at-me environment. “Influencers” are paid based on their followership and followers rarely follow the self-effacing.

It’s not an easy line to walk. I want “Make America Great Again” without forgetting pride comes before a fall.

I want confidence in our progress but also a recognition that for as far as we’ve come, we still can’t land all helicopter flights safely.

Scripture is full of admonitions like Luke 18:14, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Last week, San Antonio Express News sportswriter Tom Orsborn highlighted the reading passions of San Antonio Spurs past and present.

Legend Manu Ginobili recommends Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. I haven’t read it, but it looks timely. Here’s a clip from the prologue:

While the history books are filled with tales of obsessive, visionary geniuses who remade the world in their image with sheer, almost irrational force, I’ve found that history is also made by individuals who fought their egos at every turn, who eschewed the spotlight, and who put their higher goals above their desire for recognition.

Are we surprised that an organization that won five world championships in fifteen years would spawn players interested in selflessness? Win or lose, head coach Gregg Popovich consistently encourages opposing players and coaches after games.

Corey Benjamin, the Chicago Bulls’ first round draft pick in 1998, once told a teammate he could beat a retired Michael Jordan in one-on-one.

When word got around, Jordan showed up to the Bulls practice facility to set the record straight. The game wasn’t even close. His Airness, in sweatpants, handled the upstart with ease.

A little humility – “I’d like to play Michael Jordan in one-on-one.”- would have kept Corey Benjamin off the wrong pages of basketball history.

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Age and the current political climate

Before the recent opioid drug crisis dampened the growth of U.S. life expectancy, Americans were living an average of 1.5 to 2 years longer with each passing decade.

Today, the average American lives about 78.5 years which is roughly 8 years longer than the average American lived in 1970.

Longer lifespans have prompted retirement and other benefit markers to inch up along with life expectancy.

When I was young, my sister and I had a self-appointed adopted grandmother. This lady was a widow from our church whom my parents drove to evening services when darkness prevented her from driving.

She insisted on being called “Grannie.” My sister and I indulged her mainly because we didn’t want to face her wrath for non-compliance.

Grannie was the most opinionated woman I had ever met. She had a comment – usually negative – on virtually any topic, from the length of my pant leg to the length of the preacher’s sermon.

Our family never invited Grannie to our house because Mom couldn’t bear the thought of her housekeeping critiques.

Grannie was difficult to get along with. I wonder how much more challenging she would have been if she had lived five or ten years longer. Probably a lot.

For most people, filters come down with age. Some people get kinder as they age; most seem to get more cantankerous. They don’t as much. They’ll tear up a speech on national television immediately after it was given…by the president of the United States.

It’s well-accepted that our politics are more polarizing than ever. I wonder if age has anything to do with it.

The aforementioned speech ripper, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, turns 80 this month. Most of the major Democrat candidates for president are septuagenarians: Elizabeth Warren (70), Joe Biden (77), Bernie Sanders (78) and Mike Bloomberg (78). Their debates are a circus of squabbles.

Of course, President Donald Trump, 73, is prone to name-calling (“Sleepy Joe,” “Mini Mike”) and other childish behaviors.

His sardonic commentary both on Twitter and at the bully pulpit is the stuff previously reserved for pundits and comedians. It’s not generally conducive for healthy policymaking, or raising kids.

Years of experience can bring wisdom, and many of Trump’s presidential actions have been good for our country (Supreme Court appointees, tax cuts, regulatory reform, etc.). Our beloved President Ronald Reagan served a majority of his two terms while in his seventies.

But the circle of life has a way of returning aged adults to childish forms as their days wind down. Humans start in strollers and end wheelchairs. We start and end with feeding and bathing assistance.

Which begs the question…

The U.S. Constitution provides age minimums for the Presidency (35), the Senate (30) and Congress (25). Do we also need age maximums?

Many corporate boards have age limits. They usually are set at 72 or 75 according to a Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

At age 70, U.S. citizens must start collecting Social Security. At age 70.5, retirement accountholders must start taking distributions.

Given the demographic trends of our society, age discrimination is a legitimate concern. We must prevent it at all cost.

But it shouldn’t stop us from asking, “What are appropriate age limits for federal officeholders and would it help our political climate if we had them?”

 

Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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