Know Your Limits: Humility, Being Wrong, and Learning to Ask for Help

“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”

—Henry Ford

Straight from the mouth of the great innovator, entrepreneur, and titian of industry himself! It’s OK to be wrong. Rest assured, Henry Ford experienced his fair share of ‘setbacks and grieves’ as he developed the assembly line technique for producing the Model T. But his relentless persistence virtually transformed the automobile industry, making cars, formerly luxury items, available and affordable for a great many people in the early twentieth century.

ask-for-help-900This quotation teaches us that humility is an important aspect of success. As you move towards your goals, there are going to be challenges. That’s a given. And, chances are, you won’t successfully face all of them. There will be missteps and miscalculations, oversights and underestimations, but it’s important to remember that these don’t disqualify you from pursuing your goals. Just because you are wrong sometimes doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

Humility is learning to accept the instances where you have been wrong, understand your mistakes, and learn from them. It also helps you check your ego. You know the impulses of your ego, I’m sure: “I can do everything, fix everything, foresee and solve every problem that comes my way!” Except sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you’re wrong.

Our culture tends to overlook the importance of learning to be wrong. There’s much more emphasis on being right. And, understandably so! Being right is validating and encouraging and helps you feel confident as you move towards success. But there are valuable lessons to be gleaned from being wrong too.

Cultivating humility in your work life, as well as your personal life, can help you recognize your limits. This sort of awareness can really foster a healthy sense of self and your capabilities, as well as your shortcomings. The truth is you can’t do everything, you don’t know everything. Even within your field of expertise, there may be areas where you are less capable or knowledgeable. And that’s OK. The important thing is that you recognize these areas, learn to accept that you may be wrong, and seek to understand.

Another aspect of humility is learning to ask for help. Be sure you’re not neglecting to take advantage of some of the best resources out there: you’re colleagues and friends! Our cultural tendency towards always being right often times prevents us from seeking help when we need it most. When you’re having trouble understanding some aspect of your work or solving a specific problem, consult with those who know more than you about the area or problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Doing so could cause you precious time and energy as you move towards you goals. Collaborating with your colleagues and friends can be as personally enriching as it is professionally beneficial.

So, it’s OK. You’re wrong sometimes. We all are. Stay humble and carry on! With some help along that way, your dreams are yours for the taking!

Pa Joof