What's your point zero? / by AB Mann


Prior to this Virtue Project, I never gave much thought to Humility. I never assumed I had anything worth pride. Not in like a "I have no faults" way but more like an obliviousness to my capabilities. In the absence of information, do you assume you're right or wrong? That what you're doing is correct and true or not? Knowing where you are to start helps define your path to humility.

"Am I at all good at my job?" My boss looked dumbfounded. I couldn't tell if it was incredulity because I didn't know or audacity that I even asked. She stumbled a little.

"What did you just ask me?"

"Am I any good at my job? I don't get any feedback but people keep giving me projects to work on and my team members seem to like me. But am I actually any good? I don't think its something I can judge myself."

"Oh geez, Will. Ok, let's talk about that..."

For the next 30 minutes, my boss slowly outlined pieces of my job and explained not only that I was good at many of the things I do but why I was. She had team statistics, feedback from other people (that I'd never seen), and a handful of conversations she'd had about me with other people. It was illuminating. And astonishing.


It was astonishing both in that I had no idea and that there was so much of the positive feedback that I had never seen. Both problematic, the latter an issue with company culture as a whole, but the former an issue with my perspective. "Issue" maybe too strong a word as my starting point in self-understanding of my capabilities was non-existant as opposed to pernicious.

Not knowing where you stand can drive you to one of two places: Ignorant and questioning or ignorant and hubristic. Th former is a lackof education or awareness on my part. The latter scares. In the absence of information, assuming for amazing skill or that a lack of skill is somehow more genuine and honest is toxic. It's the sort of pride that keeps you from learning.

But. The path to humility si the same regardless:

We must shed ignorance and the embrace truth.

And it is as simple, adn as difficult, as asking questions of those outside of us - friends, family, coworkers - if we're any good at the things we do. If we have no presuppositions, learning their assessment of our capabilities may be easier to take. If our ignorance is laced with hubris, it wil be a cold glass of water to the face.

The thing is, quality of capabilities are more genuinely measured from the people we trust. Our own minds though, especialy if tainted by a prideful ignorance, is untrustworthy. Other can see the effects of what we do, how we interact with the world, and what we leave behind as we continue about our day. We may understand out intent but can't always see the consequences of what we do. That's why we have to talk to people we trust.

"Why are you asking?" My boss said. "What's brought this up?"

"I don't believe in the no news is good news philosophy. When I asked my previous boss for specific feedback, he had nothing to say besides 'you're doing fine.' Or 'nothing is on fire.'"

She smiled. "Good because you certainly haven't screwed anything up. Recently." She threw me a sly smile and we continued on discussing all of the things I do, things I'm good at, things I could improve (there's always something we could do better).

Good information and a start. By the end of that meeting, I had a pretty good sense of where I was and one thing I strongly bvelieve about Humility: The truth of our abilities isn't necessarily visible to us. No information is no information. It's Prideful to interpret no information as endoresement of anything I've done. But I'm not a pessemistic person so didn't think i was floundering or that my team was in trouble.

Once we have that baseline, we can watch for those moments where our braisn gets ahead of us, where ignorance tries to say "I know well enough!"

No brain, you don't. Knowing this is how we get better at being better.