What You Learn After You Know It All

Rick Kraft

I am far from perfect. I do my best to keep a good heart and a good attitude about others, but, despite good intentions, I fail regularly.

Although I feel I have been blessed with much wisdom, I still have a lot to learn. If I had a sign that hung around my neck, it would say “WORK IN PROGRESS.” I seek to learn something new every day. I don’t plan to finish growing until my last breath.

I will qualify what I am about to share as an individual who fumbles regularly, but never gives up on carrying the ball. All of us need to carry the ball down the field, do the best we can with the time we hold it, pick the blasted thing back up off the ground when we drop it and continue to move it on down the field.

I believe that pride conquers humbleness too often in our lives. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” I don’t believe all pride leads to a fall, but I have seen the repetitive history of mankind that supports this verse.

The Romans became prideful and thought they would be the most powerful nation forever, and then they fell. Nazi Germany had pride in who they were. They totally messed up the world and then quickly collapsed. In between we had France’s Napoleon Bonaparte, Great Britain’s seafaring kingdom and many other powerful nations that rose to power and then fell.

These nations made it to the top, then pridefully they collapsed. Pride has literally completely toppled kingdoms, nations, alliances and companies.

I don’t want this column to be about these entities, but to be about individuals. All of this starts from within us. Pride destroys marriages, families and friendships.

I do think there are instances where pride is a healthy element for a person to possess. One example is pride in others. I am proud of my child when she accomplishes something she has worked hard for. I am proud of a friend who, as an alcoholic, each day conquers his addiction.

But pride can turn into a negative characteristic if it becomes pride in oneself. Definitions of pride include “an unduly high opinion of oneself,” “exaggerated self-esteem, conceit” or “haughty behavior resulting from arrogance.”

Ironically, pride and insecurity can manifest themselves in the same way. They are not opposites, but they are cousins or siblings.

The entire message of this column can be summed up in one quote. John Wooden, one of my heroes, once said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Our lives really need to be about serving others. If we are serving others, then it is very difficult to be filled with pride. Look at the three definitions I provided above. All three of them focus on a person’s view of himself. People with an overdose of pride lose touch with those they serve, because it becomes about the person, not others.

If our lives are about serving others, then we should recognize that any high opinion we have of ourselves or exaggerated self-esteem or arrogance should only exist to be leveraged for the benefit of others.

I believe self-confidence is an important attribute for a person to carry, but pride in oneself is not. Sometimes this is a thin line.

So how do we have self-confidence, but not pride? It comes down to one key personality trait, “humbleness.”

Humbleness is knowing that you don’t know it all. It is recognizing that others have a greater importance than you. It is checking your ego or pride at the door and pouring what you have into others for the benefit of others.

I like the quote by John Maxwell: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you truly want to be effective in the lives you touch, you need to put the lives of others above your own. Only then can pride not have a foothold on your world.

A lot of the anguish we experience happens because we have our own pity parties. We think that this world is about us. We find ourselves looking down at others.

If you are possessed by humbleness and recognize that you can contribute to the lives of others, then you look up at those you interact with.

My challenge to you today is to recognize that your life is work in progress. Every person you interact with is a special person with special needs and possesses something you can learn from them.

If you ever get to the point where you think you know it all, your ability to change this world is hindered. Although you may feel like the sharpest crayon in the box, you may very well be headed for a fall.

You see, it is what you learn after you think you know it all that is most important.

Just a thought …

Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, motivational speaker, published author and attorney. To submit comments, contributions or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org.