Tuesday, December 30, 2003

"Those who are both humble and tough"

Last fall, a good friend gave me a remarkable little book, a collection of essays by C.S. Lewis (good sites here and here ) from the 1930s and 40s. Lewis is best known for his five-book set about the fictional world of Narnia. He was also, though one of finest thinkers and ethicists of the mid 20th century and has long been a favorite of mine.

And a surprise came in the middle of the book. In a lecture at Oxford in October, 1939, Lewis sought to give students perspective as to why they should continue in their education even as Europe lurched inexorably towards war. Why stay with their studies when the call to action seemed so loud?

Lewis answered with a telling quote. Each vocation and stage of training has its dullness, its boredom. Which is useful because, Lewis said,

It weeds out the vain, windy people and keeps in those who are both humble and tough.

Who really makes it? Who are the true influencers? Who is it who really changes things? Is it not those who have humility? Who do not care where the credit goes so long as the job gets done? Is it not those who are tenacious to get results and hang in there? Those who can put up with the boredom, the petty pot-shots, the political wrangling, the difficulty with understanding correctly? And is it not those who are humble and tough who earn the trust of others?

The simplicity of Lewis' words rings true 63 years later. And is a great challenge and encouragement to all of us hoping to make a difference in our organizations.

May you practice humility and be tough today.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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