Can one be humble and ambitious at the same time?

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Be Inspired / Success

from In Conversation

Sadhguru @ College of Defence Management

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The next question Sadhguru. As we grow up in the Armed Forces, sometimes the circumstances around us compel us to take autocratic decisions. Over a period of time, these become rigid habits which some of us unknowingly display in form of arrogant behavior. While professional competence and ambition is necessary to climb up the ladder, one important quality of humility continues to be ignored, as too many leaders think that they can't be humble and ambitious at the same time. Could you please highlight the importance of humility for any leader, and how do we develop this essential skill?

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Can one be humble and ambitious at the same time?

The following is an unedited transcript of Sadhguru's video. For better readability, breaks and highlights have been added by the editors.

Questioner: The next question Sadhguru. As we grow up in the Armed Forces, sometimes the circumstances around us compel us to take autocratic decisions. Over a period of time, these become rigid habits which some of us unknowingly display in form of arrogant behavior. While professional competence and ambition is necessary to climb up the ladder, one important quality of humility continues to be ignored, as too many leaders think that they can’t be humble and ambitious at the same time. Could you please highlight the importance of humility for any leader, and how do we develop this essential skill?

Sadhguru: So, that means somebody is trying to be a Commandant even at home with the family. I think by now you should have discovered it doesn’t work.

Well, this habit of giving orders should not become a habit. It is important, once again I stress, in a fighting force which is not a normal kind of social situation, where we can sit down and debate about everything. No, once a leader says something, others, whether it makes much sense to them or not, sometimes they just have to do it – because there are moments in our life, there are situations when we are in intense activity, where there is no room for debate. Debate should happen elsewhere. There cannot be a debate on the battlefield.

Again I’ll go back to Kurukshetra – this is a debate on the battlefield. If you take up the Bhagavad Gita and read, I don’t know how long it will take to read that eighteen chapters, because I have not, but I believe it will take at least four, five hours. So, if you stand with your enemy army standing there, and for four, five hours if you’re debating, you know what is your fate. So, that’s exactly what Krishna was trying to tell Arjuna, “This is not a time to debate.”

So, officers have to even if that is not their natural way, they have to be a certain level of command and force, otherwise those situations won’t work. But, if you try the same method everywhere, it won’t work either.

About humility – see, what a leader needs is, he needs integrity, first of all. Integrity means – in your thought and emotion, everything that you do is not about yourself, it is about the larger well-being. If this becomes your way, if this is your sense of integrity, integrity is not just a bunch of morals or values or ethics – integrity means that your intentions have become larger than personal. Your intentions are not about your well-being, it’s always about larger well-being. As long as this is fixed and you have this integrity, you don’t have to try to act like a humble pie, it’s really not necessary.

Integrity must be there, and above all, people will respect a leader because he has some insight. Because when you say a leader, in some way either a society or an organization or a force like yours, places you on a perch. If you sit on a perch, you must see something more than what others are seeing. If you sit on a perch and still don’t see any better than those who are down there, then you will become an object of ridicule. So, it’s very important that an officer or a leader must develop insight. If there is no insight, if you don’t see things clearly, then all that will happen is ridicule, not really leadership.

And another important aspect is, as a leader, it is not by words that you can inspire people. Inspiration is very, very needed, especially in a force like yours. Without inspiring the men, you can’t do the type of activity that is expected of a soldier. If this inspiration has to happen, it’s not just about inspiring words, nobody is going to listen to those words. The important thing is you live in such a way, that you burn with such intensity, that people cannot help catching fire and be intense along with you.

So, inspiration, insight, and integrity – if these three things if you have, you don’t have to be humble. What is humility, let’s understand this. Humility comes to you not because you pretend a certain kind of behavior. Trying to be humble may make you very pretentious. It is better you have pride in what you’re doing. When you have pride in what you’re doing, when you’re very proud of what you do and how you do, then it takes care of you stepping on other people.

And above all, if we understand our position on this planet – in this cosmos, this solar system is a tiny speck. In this tiny speck of a solar system, planet Earth is a micro speck. In that micro speck, India is another speck. In that super micro speck, your battalion is a super, super micro speck. In that, you are a big man, this is lot of trouble.

If you just understand, we are a speck of life – nature has given us, creation has given us so many privileges of experiencing our life individually, but if you look at the life of the planet and who we are, we are a small pop up, and we will pop out, one way or the other. If we understand the context of the time that we occupy here as human beings, the space that we occupy here as human beings and who we are – well we are just a tiny speck. If we are just conscious about this, there is no need for humility, you will be fine.

You know, I must tell you this. As a rule, when my daughter was growing up, I made sure that nobody teaches her anything. I said, “Nobody should teach her anything. She will grow up by herself, nobody should teach her anything.” People said, “What about 123, what about ABC, what about Mary had a little lamb?” See, I said, “No need for ABC, no need for 123, and I don’t care whether Mary had a lamb or not. You just leave her alone, let her grow up.” So, she grew up like this, she did not understand that she’s a child. She always treated everybody as equal, she called me by my first name, she called all adults like that, but she was just fine.

Then, I had to put her in school after some time because my travels went crazy. Then when she was about twelve, thirteen years of age – something happened in the school and it disturbed her. She came home and said, “You’re teaching everybody so many things, you’re not teaching me anything.” I said, “See, I’m not given to teach anybody unsolicited, and you did not enroll, you just landed up here, so now that you’re asking, okay, sit down.”

I said, “See, this is all you need to know about life – never look up to anybody.” She looked at me like this, “What about you?” kind of thing. I said, “Especially me, never look up to me. Because if you look up to me, the maximum that you will do is, you will take my picture and nail it on the wall. That’s not going to do any good to you. If you see me just the way I am, it will be of immense value, but if you look up to me, you will miss it. So, never look up to anybody, never look down on anybody. You just see life just the way it is, then you will navigate your way through life effortlessly.” And this is all it takes. We don’t need humility, nor do we need arrogance – both are not needed. Why can’t we just handle life as it is necessary?

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