Gary Moore: The simple elegance of humility
I learned a long time ago that we should humble ourselves so others will not feel the need to do it for us.
At a young age, I began achieving success in business. People and organizations began praising my name while speaking and writing about my success … and I loved it. I knew on the inside that much of the praise was overblown and not deserved, but I accepted it anyway.
In 2002, this very newspaper labelled me a “Business Wizard” in a news story. I reveled in the attention and publicity, and before long, I believed it. All of it.
I was invincible.
I believed everything I touched turned to success and for a long time, it did.
I started believing that nothing could take me down, but I had yet to meet the Great Recession that began in 2008. It arrived like a raging wildfire and ravaged my business and destroyed my lifetime of work.
After my fall, I began reading and hearing about those who did not wish me well.
They spoke of my arrogance in a voice that could not hide their delight in my plight.
My business and life crashed and burned, and it was hard to find those who sympathized with, or for me. It felt like a nightmare from which I would never awake. In retrospect, I now realize it was a great gift.
Through the ashes of my former life, I was able to finally see an accurate picture of myself.
I was an honest businessman.
I always conducted my affairs within the bounds of the law and within accepted ethical standards and that paints a picture of a good guy … but I was arrogant. Self-absorbed.
I spent more time at work than I did with my family.
I said and believed I was doing it for them. That was the first lie I told myself.
When I was home, my mind was on work.
My anxiety about being home rather than the office erupted into what my kids began calling, “Freak-out Saturday.”
The second lie I told myself was that I was smart … so smart that I could never fail.
The truth is, I was building an incredible business but managed it into a position of growth that was so rapid that when the Great Recession began ravishing the land, we were in a weakened cash position that assured our inability to survive.
I was devastated and humiliated … but it was a gift.
As I looked back over the previous two decades, I did not like the person I saw.
I took pride in all the wrong things and did not take care of the most important.
I drove expensive cars, built a huge home, owned several airplanes and wore only custom-tailored suits.
After the fall, I realized that I never wanted to be that person again and deeply desired a change in my life.
I was humbled.
I was wounded.
I was grateful.
As you look through every community, you will find people like me.
What I now realize is that the ability to humble yourself is an essential quality to avoid pain.
In my case, it was forced upon me.
Whenever I speak to business groups, I always say, “Humble yourself so the universe won’t have to. It’s less painful … but make no mistake about it, sooner or later, the arrogant and proud are always humbled.”
Today, there is nothing more important in my life than my faith in God and my family.
I love my new career as an author and columnist, but it is a distant third to my faith and family.
I am writing this from the teachers lounge at Liberty Elementary School where I occasionally substitute teach.
Our district is desperate for subs, and I love to help when I can.
Today, there was a mix-up, and the class I was scheduled to teach ended up not needing a substitute after all.
I was told to have a seat in the lounge, and they’d find something for me to do.
After 10 minutes, a young lady approached me and said, “I’m embarrassed to ask you this, but we have a closet where donated clothes and coats are kept for students that may be in need. It is a disorganized mess. Clothes need folding and placed on shelves. You can say no.”
I thought for a moment about this column and responded, “Of course, I’ll fold clothes,” and I did.
It was a humbling experience on one hand but a pleasure and privilege on the other. (It’s a public school so don’t tell anyone, but I prayed over each garment I folded, that God would see that each coat, shirt, hoodie and sock found their way to a child who is in need.) I felt I was doing something important.
I need days like this to keep me in check.
Tonight, I’m speaking at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs to a large crowd about my books, “Playing with the Enemy” and “The Final Service.” Events like these can be exhilarating, ego-boosting experiences. However, tonight, I’ll remember, that just a few hours before, I was folding clothes.