• Wiehann de Klerk

Be Less

The less you are, the greater you become in the lives of others. Life is not about the receipt of honor, but, more about the giving of honor. If, in life, we all choose to give honor, then, without wanting to obtain honor, we will receive it. Therefore, life should not be about obtaining honor, but, more about giving it away: more honor comes to those that honor others, than those who purposely seek it for themselves.

On our journey, let's choose to be less, after all, we are less in comparison to the greatness of the mountains, heavens and stars.

Life is not about being called the master, but, more about making others feel masterful. In each aspect of our service to others, we are a servant, whether we choose to believe so or not, we are. An office clerk is the servant of the team leader; team leader, the supervisor; supervisor, the manager; manager, the director; director, the general manager; general manager, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO); CEO, the customer (those being served by the product offering). No one would have a job if the boss (customer) didn't buy the product being offered. Even the CEO is a servant to someone. Let's not the forget the President of a nation who is the servant to the country.

As a consequence, it is in our best interests to have some level of understanding concerning servanthood and servant leadership. A person that is a servant to someone above them must understand the importance of making their master feel more superior than they are; the master must understand the importance of servant leadership - placing the needs of others first to help them develop and perform at a high level. There is more benefit to being less than there is to being more. I understand that the examples I have shown may come across as a management hierarchy. The reality is that, whether an organization tries otherwise or not, there is always a hierarchy - some are very clear and evident in the leadership of the firm, some not as much, however, there are always certain levels of experience in organizations and these levels are the hierarchy. For example, the Director of a company may be a humble guy, while still being the master of the managers underneath him. There is a reason why he is the Director of the company. Being less is all about elevating people around you, not undermining yourself. Never undermine your ability, however, always exemplify the abilities of others. As Ernest Hemingway remarked, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Be of a greater superiority than you were in your past, but be less than your fellow men, so that you may elevate them.

Everyone appreciates someone that improves and grows, although, not everyone appreciates someone that is more superior than themselves. Recently, I attended a conference in Sydney, Australia, where one of the exhibitors was a large global firm. The representative of this large global firm, Alan, the International Business Development Manager (big title!) attempted to sell his product line, gain new partners etc. His approach, presence, verbal and non-verbal communication clearly showcased nothing but superiority to anyone around him. I was thrown by the arrogance, egoism and pride of the man causing me to stumble on what to say. I knew that, no matter what I said, it would not impress the man. He didn't care about anyone but himself. Nevertheless, I continued to pitch some ideas to him and many ways in which we can collaborate. After completing my pitch, he immediately said: "no, we cannot work together because I represent a global firm." I countered his reaction by saying that we actually work with many large corporate companies and, to no avail, he disengaged. Prior to walking up to him to greet him, I was impressed by the exhibit - a global firm working with the latest innovations in Artificial Intelligence handling systems. Although, during my discussion with him, I was disenthralled. His elevation of self was so oversized that he can do nothing but stomp on those who are apparently beneath him. I continued to wonder, how many people he treated this way? I don't walk up to someone and pitch something to them, unless I am 100% assured that they can benefit from what I have to say, after all, as you may have heard me say or write, life is not about 'me', but about 'we'. Elevation of self occurs automatically to those that help elevate others, so, let's choose to elevate others. We are not to look down at those below us, but instead, to help them up. Looking down will show them what we are more and they are less, and, helping them up will show them that they can be more. Choose to serve others, elevate others and increase their superiority and you will be a servant leader.

"There is more benefit to being less than there is to being more."

There is power in being insignificant. Insignificance is a wonderful thing, yet, not many are aware of its wonders. The recognition of insignificance leads us to enlightenment. By the end of this blog, I want you to recognise insignificance and its many benefits that you may be enlightened. Even if you are a big shot, the reality is that you are not the biggest, and I don't mean to burst your bubble. I'm not either, but, knowing this allows us be relaxed and at peace. Most certainly, for me, I always feel at peace because I know that really, if I think about it, in the grand scheme of things, I am nothing. I am but a mere breath of air that floats away - I have such little time on this tiny little planet, and there are more than seven billion other bits of insignificance on this planet, just like me. We are insignificant, yet, many choose to be prideful about their achievements. "Look at me, look at me, I am amazing," - we hear this all the time, verbally, non-verbally or via a post on some shared social platform. But who cares? The reality is that no one does. No one cares about the significance of someone else, however, they do care about their own significance. But, what if I told you that no one is significant? No one is significant. We must not say, "look at me" but say, "look at them." Our insignificance of self can enable others to feel significant, and when we do this, we are humble and we honor others. We can never be significant, but, we can feel significant. Humility is when we choose to think of ourselves less, and think of others more - making others feel significant. We are to be silent concerning the fruits of our labor, speaking loudly about the fruits of others. Not all acts of man are to be honored, that is for sure, however, why honor others for their acts? Honoring others is all about having high regard for them as a human being, not for them as an achiever of acts. After all, we are human beings, not human doings. Anyone valuable in your life as a person, whether they be an employee, a friend or family member, are we not to honor them? The superiority that we obtained in life would not be possible without those around us, and, as a result, we are to be insignificant and to honor others around us. Michel de Montaigne once emphasized, "On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom." Those who are sitting on powerful thrones in the world today are sitting on their bottoms, just like us, and if their not, we should be worried. We are all tiny insignificant beings. Some tiny insignificant beings may do some things that are of significant value, however, just because they did something of significant value does not make them significant. It simply makes them valuable to other insignificant beings. We pay for what or who provides us with value. For example, let's recount the exploits of actor and wrestler, Dwayne Johnson - he provides such immense value being rated one of the top 10 most paid actors, internationally, along with others like Liam Hemsworth and George Clooney. These actors provide significant value and people pay for that value, however, they are still insignificant. They built themselves strong thrones to sit on, but they still sit on it with their human bottoms.

"The greatness of a man is so great that he is aware of his own insignificance." Blaise Pascal

Just like us, these actors and their insignificance longs for significance. We must choose to be better beings by making others feel significant. Think about the remarkable Robin Williams, one of the worlds most greatly missed actors - he changed people's lives through his films. He truly was an incredible contribution to the world in which we live, yet, despite the significant value he provided this world, his insignificance was greater and, as a result, he took his own life. Many were surprised, yet, I wasn't. From what I saw, it was simply an insignificant man that wasn't honored for his significant contribution, those moments when he was with us. Let's honor others and make them feel significant. Life is not about receiving honor but about giving it away - let's give honor, then, without wanting to obtain it, we will receive it. Honor comes to those that give honor. Those moments in my life where I succeeded - I knew that deep down, those successes were not possible without the assistance of certain key influencers in my life: The honor they gave me allowed me to become greater, and as a result, I choose to honor them. Without them, I would not be the man I am today. There are people in your life right now, whether it is an employee, a friend, a family member or an acquaintance who have assisted you big time in being who you are today. Go out and honor them, make them feel significant amidst their insignificance.

“A great man is always willing to be little.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Winston Churchill once remarked, “The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes," - the only way we can listen to the thoughts, ideas or perspectives of others is if we decide to be humble, to be less. Sometimes, as smart as we might be, someone out there knows a thing or two that we don't know, and in these moments, by being less, we can open ourselves up to more. With regard to the representative, Alan, I had a key contact I wanted to introduce him to that he can work with in relation to his company's latest innovative bulk handling system, however, because he decided to be more and showcase arrogance, I decided to move away and not assist him. A flower cannot grow without water; a baby without a mothers milk or; a sunflower without the razing sun. All of nature cannot be what it is meant to be without humility. A flower cannot grow without water nor a baby without a mothers milk - imagine if a flower decides to lack humility and decline water - in this instance, the flower will not grow. Same with us, we cannot grow if we are not willing to humble ourselves and be open to learning. Advice only has power when it is listened to, and the only time we listen is when we let go of ego. Churchill referred to this knowledge as being the "greatest lesson in life." When we let our apparent significance get in the way, we treat the words of others as insignificant because we believe that we know more. Once we are in a state of apparent significance, we struggle to learn, and once we struggle to learn, we stop learning. This is a dangerous place. Albert Einstein concluded, "Once you stop learning, you start dying." Significance is dangerous - there is no room for improvement. Be less so that you are always open for more. Those that we meet in our lifetime, whether a wise man or a fool will have something they can share with us. Let's be humble in our approach to life's lessons, open to the thoughts of others.

"Sometimes, as smart as we might be, someone out there knows a thing or two that we don't know, and in these moments, by being less, we can open ourselves up to more."

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it anyway." This was and still is, one powerful quote. We can never truly know the overall meaning of our lives - we are not God, and we most certainly never will be. We did not create ourselves and, as a result, will never know exactly the meaning our lives hold, however, we do know that our lives have meaning. Every life on this planet has a meaning, whether it is long or short, it impacts the world in some large or small way. Gandhi clearly understood this, that life has a meaning to someone in some way at some point, or to many in many ways at many points. Which one depends on how valuable we choose to be in this world. Gandhi knew that the enjoyment of life is more significant than the understanding of life. Don't take life too seriously because no matter how seriously you take it, it never takes you seriously. Amidst the insignificance of our attempts at this little life we have, let's do it anyway.

"Don't take life too seriously because no matter how serious you take it, it never takes you sersiosly."

Criss Jami noted, "To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” When we choose apparent significance, we avoid vulnerability, and when we avoid vulnerability, we avoid strength. These days, whether it be in business, politics, religion or relationships, it's important to disclose our weakness and be vulnerable. We all know and understand our weaknesses - naturally, whether we like it or not, we are flawed - it’s just part of being human; we lie, cheat, steal, kill just to name a few of the worse ones. We are a flawed species, and, as a result, when we disclose our flaws and choose vulnerability, we choose to be strong. Why is it, that in every interview, we get asked, "what are some of your weaknesses?" Failing to provide a clear answer to this request immediately displays an ego, self-admiration and pridefulness, most certainly not characteristics that any employer seeks to include in their organisational culture. Even a loved one appreciates it when a partner discloses their weaknesses upfront - trust me, it's a smart thing to do, in any friendship or relationship. A display of weakness results in a lifestyle of strength, as counterintuitive as it may seem. Weakness is perfected in strength, manifested in those who are deemed the strongest. Notice how, whenever someone reaches a place of strength, whether that be a President or a CEO of a global company, weaknesses are made manifest - think of Donald Trump after being elected as the US President, or Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook, after being blamed for various user privacy issues this year. These inherently strong and self-reliant men are bound to display certain aspects of weakness, small or large. Such strong men who are consciously aware of their strength, will, most likely, believe that their current strength will fabricate their indisputable negligence at other times. For instance, often, men who have high levels of intellect and are morally weak, count on their intellectual strength as a cover for their moral insufficiencies. For instance, often, men who are have high levels of intellect and are morally weak, count on their intellectual strenght as a cover for their moral insufficiencies.

Tiger Woods is a good example of this - despite his strength as a golfer and his highly respected intellectual capacity, he too displayed his weakness reportedly confessing to sleeping with 120 women while being married to Elin Nordegren, a former model in Sweden. Woods was a great golfer, who won 14 major golf tournaments from 1997 to 2008. On October 1, 2009, Forbes named him the first athlete to earn $1 billion. He was truly the greatest golfer of all time and a unique success story, considering his domination as a multi-ethnic champion amidst a historically white sport. However, on November 26, 2009, things turned around for Woods, in a really bad way, when he was caught cheating on his beloved wife, with a nightclub hostess named Rachel Uchitel. Since then, his game fell apart, and his career lacked momentum. A financially strong man, now and then gets tempted into a belief that money is a license enabling him to lack courtesy for others; strong financially, weak relationally. The right thing to do in these moments is to display the weakness early on. "I cheated on you once, I made a mistake, I'm sorry" and "I am in love with money and may mistreat you as a result, please let me know if I do" would have been great for Woods to communicate to his then, wife. We are to disclose our weaknesses - we all have them.

2 Corinthians 12:10 - Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Strength is, many times, perfected in weakness. Say, for instance, that a man who is ignorant, yet conceited, travelled to a foreign city. He insisted, "A guide is a waste of my time. I will find interesting views and landmarks for and by myself." After that, he goes - the ignorant man, searching and stumbling along, opening himself up to many dangers, wasting time. He looks for a palace, an art gallery and a view, finding nothing - what a display of weakness. The inherently so-called strength of the man availed nothing. To the contrary, another man made his way into the same city, foreign in his eyes also. This man is not quite as ignorant as the strong man, and follows an intelligent guide, gaining help, insights and new ideas. In comparison, the strong man, who remains independent of help stands on the sides of the streets, confused and attentive as he searches his maps and guide-books for answers. After both men return home, who is the strong one? I'm sure you agree that the man who accepted his weakness, and, decided to accept the guidance of an intelligent guide was, most assuredly, the stronger man. The "strong" man was, in fact, the weak man simply because he couldn't accept his human weaknesses. He wanted to display his strength, but, how do you display strength if you are not willing to admit weakness? You can't! Nature has this sorted out. Think of a child that is blind - what a helpless, weak and useless being, yet, despite his/her weakness, a strength is born. The weakness opens up other avenues where strength can exist; increased power passed onto the other senses such as touch and hearing. The very infirmity of blindness causes endowment to occur. The child is made strong through weakness. Furthermore, the child becomes so consciously aware of the infirmity causing cautiousness to bring about further accomplishments than that of a child who is free of such an infirmity. A man who is blessed by strong health is more likely to take advantage of it; to the contrary, a man who is disheartened by aching headaches, feverish temperatures and aching muscle pains will work, to his best ability, to obey a doctors instruction, conserve the life he has, and, bring discipline to his daily practices. What we see here is the power and strength which comes about through the very existence of weakness; self-mastery over minds and hearts. Weakness is the mother; strength, the child. To raise up strength in our lives, we must first embrace weakness. In order to be significant in what we do, our relationship, jobs, goals and even, our disciplines, we must first be insignificant - a place of insignificance is a breeding ground for significance.

Too many times, we accept the words, admiration and encouragement of those that love us as the evidence that we are wonderful. Sometimes, we even accept the admiration that our pets have for us as evidence of our brilliance. This is similar to asking an insurance salesman for advice on what insurance package to get. It just doesn't make sense. The advice, words or encouragement you obtain will be biased. Of course, those that love you will say things that indicate that you are wonderful, and, of course, an insurance salesman will provide you with only one piece of advice, and that is, to buy their insurance package. You might already be covered by your 401K, or Superannuation, as it's called in Australia, however, an insurance salesman will not tell you what you need to know, and same with those that love you. It’s time that we choose to listen to the voices of our critiques, enemies and listen to their words as constructive feedback that we can use to improve. If those close to you tell that you are wonderful, say thanks, but, then, immediately ask them, "what am I weak at?" Identify what you are weak at and share your weaknesses - be open about it, be vulnerable, and before you know it, strength will most assuredly make itself known in your life.

“True humility does not know that it is humble. If it did, it would be proud from the contemplation of so fine a virtue.” - Martin Luther

In what areas of your life can you reduce your apparent significance? Who in your life right now can you honor?

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