I started writing a blog about what I thought was a clever analogy for how we should conduct ourselves, and it began like this:
Check the “Made in” label of your favorite shirt, bath towel, or summer sandals and you will find words that read Made in China, Made in America, Made in Vietnam, or other similar designation. “Made in” labels show that a product is all or virtually all made in said country. The labels influence buying decisions, symbolize pride, and contribute to consumers’ overall perception of that country.
Imagine if you had your own “Made in” label that was placed (literally or figuratively) on everything you did indicating it was all or virtually all done by you. This “label” would give family, friends, co-workers, and community members an impression of you, your character, and your work ethic. How would that impact your actions?
I built a bird house tower for my wife several years ago that still stands in our backyard today. It gets a lot of attention, both from the birds who fight for vacancy and guests who wonder where we got it. I am happy to say, “I made it.” I have no problem imagining a label attached to it stating, “Made by Dan.” I value humility too much to actually do it, but you get my point. I am proud of the product and when we are pleased with our work the more comfortable we are branding it as our own. But what about the actions we are not so proud of? What if the bird house looked like a hideous mess? I suspect over the course of our lives we all have taken measures to hide from actions we are embarrassed by.
I try to carry this way of thinking over into other areas of my life. Whether I am in a meeting at work, cleaning the bathroom at home, raising my children, or talking with a friend, I imagine placing a “Made in” label on that task or interaction testifying to my doing it. And if I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that action being attached to my brand then I shouldn’t do it. I am not successful at it all the time, but it serves as a good remember for me to be my best self.
This is where I temporarily stopped writing the blog-or typing, to be accurate. It hit me; what I thought was a clever concept to stay aligned with the person I aspire to be, existed. We literally have a “Made in” label attached to something many of us use every day; it is called a username or profile. Numerous times a day we are sharing thoughts, feelings, actions, and beliefs using the platforms of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and more. Each post is attached to our label proclaiming “Made by Insert Name Here.” And, sadly, it doesn’t keep us from posting rude and inappropriate content we shouldn’t be proud of. So that leaves me wondering, “Where do we go from here?” How do we lesson the insolence when not even the public shame of people knowing what we say or do stops us from doing it?
After a brief stint of despair I return to my original blog idea. I return with steadfast resolve to promote positive, honorable behaviors. I believe it is time well invested. It seems to be, at least in my opinion, there is less civility and kindness today. There are many studies readily available online that affirm my opinion. And there are so many theories as to the reasons and contributing factors it overwhelms me. Frankly, I do not feel the need to put my finger on the cause; I acknowledge there are many and with varying levels of credibility. However, what I am hopeful for is as a people we can agree that there is a problem and we need to get better. I am hopeful we can concede, regardless the rationalized origin, we are a part of the problem and the solution begins within each one of us.
Our oldest and greatest examples show us we are supposed to be a loving and gentle people; to extend mercy and compassion to all. Easier said than done, I admit. Why is it so hard for us? I would argue one of the greatest factors getting in our way is a lack of humility.
To be humble is to remember it is not all about you. Self-righteousness and hedonism don’t prevail in the long-term. Part of the trouble is that humility is a poorly defined word in our current culture. Humility is viewed as “meekness” or having a “low view of one’s importance.” The fact of the matter is authentic humility comes from a place of strength and maturity. It doesn’t mean you think less of yourself. From a biblical perspective, humbleness is a quality of being courteously respectful of others. Humility means you are sufficiently independent to meet someone more than half way; it acknowledges the dignity and worth of all humans. The attribute of humility is precisely what we need to exist in effective nations, cities, marriages, and friendships. Just because we can literally tell the world exactly how we feel or what we accomplished in any given moment doesn’t mean we should. Modesty prevails.
It is too easy to get caught up in a comparison-based world where the loudest voice wins. We need to be reminded that it matters how we treat people. We need a reminder that to try thy best is a virtue. And so I submit the following paradoxical challenge: to act in such a way you would be proud to attach a label to every task or interaction action stating “I Did This.” And then, of course, to never do so.
To learn more about humility, being kind to others, and responding to the call to be the best person you can be check out my book I Am CXO, Now What? (WestBow Press 2017).