Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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Down to Earth

The Thriving Essentials Series: Episode 7

Like a seed, we must get down to earth to thrive.

Last week, we explored the need for hope. As we know from living, life does not always present ideal circumstances. Instead, we encounter both favorable and unfavorable situations, and to thrive, we must be hopeful and develop vital qualities. – This would lead one to ask: What is a quality without which we cannot thrive? Today, in pursuit of an answer, we will explore one that is oft-misunderstood. Here, I am referring to the quality known as humility.

I have a hunch that if we stood on 5th Avenue in New York City or Piazza di Spagna in Rome, Italy, and asked 100 random people what humility looks like, we would easily hear forty-five descriptions. Therefore, to start, let us consider the definitions of humility from a few known sources.

What do we hear humility is?

  •  freedom from pride or arrogance. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  •  the quality of not being proud because you are aware of your bad qualities. (Cambridge Dictionary)
  •  the quality of being humble or having a lowly opinion of oneself. (Oxford English Dictionary)
  •  the quality of being humble, characterized by a low focus on the self, an accurate sense of one’s accomplishments and worth, and an acknowledgment of one’s limitations, imperfections, mistakes, gaps in knowledge, and so on. (American Psychology Association)

Candidly, by reading most of the definitions above, to be humble sounds highly undesirable! – In our dog-eat-dog world, where many are vying for what their neighbor has, who wants to go about their days deeply aware of their bad qualities with a lowly opinion of themselves?? Others seem to give us plenty of reasons to feel inadequate. Therefore, if the definitions above point to what humility feels and looks like, many would choose to pass, believing it would be detrimental to project such an image to secure a job, get a promotion, or attract the person of your dreams.
But before we pass, it might be worth considering the word origin.

What humility is and is not!

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, humility is from the Latin term humilis, which means on the ground. And the Proto-Indo-European root of the word is dhghem, meaning earth. – Literally, humility means down to earth! Ironically, we often describe those we find desirable as down-to-earth! Be it an employee, colleague, friend, or spouse. It seems when one displays humility, we are attracted to them.

And this unveils a gem: To be humble is to look above and beyond oneself and appreciate the value of others. But humility is not disregarding your value and self-worth. Such behavior may appear humble but is not an authentic display of humility. Yet still, some claim that to be humble, one must focus solely on others and not care for oneself. Such a disposition makes one overly reliant on others. And when one is highly dependent on others, like a newborn baby, they become the priority.
Fortunately, most do not strive to depend entirely on others. They would rather stand on their own feet and help a friend or two. Therefore, the worthwhile question is: How does humility show up?

Ask, Listen, Own.

Humility is displayed when one asks questions to learn, listens to understand, and owns their shortcomings.

To better illustrate this, I will share a fun story, one my mom loves to recount.
Growing up, I was Daddy’s little girl! Wherever he was, I wanted to be. As soon as I heard his keys jingle, I would follow the sound like a bolt of lightning to ensure he took me along for the ride. But of all the memories of trotting alongside my dad, a particular one is etched in my memory.

In the rainy season, on a Thursday, my school was closed, and my dad asked me if I wanted to accompany him on a short business trip. He planned to go to the rainforest with some of his team members to do forestry assessments. Delighted, I jumped at the opportunity! Here I was, eight years old, going on 35, in a convoy of SUVs with professionals heading to the field to do critical work for the betterment of the people – while my friends were sleeping in! 😉

In the Rainforest.

Once we arrived in the rainforest, we spent several hours doing assessments. Or rather, my dad and his team spent several hours doing forestry assessments. While I walked around, asked lots of questions, joined every discussion, and was bitten by a gazillion mosquitoes. But, of course, I was not willing to let my dad know of the mosquito bites for fear he would ask me to sit in the car. Therefore, I hung in there and bottled up the discomfort until they finished the work.

As soon as I got home, I ran to my mom and showed her the welts of mosquito bites on my legs and arms. Also, I informed her that I enjoyed working in the field, but my dad paid everyone except me. – Despite my hard work and countless mosquito bites! My mom smiled and immediately went to chat with my dad.

Restore and strengthen connections.

A few minutes later, my dad walked into my room and asked how I felt about the trip. I shared how much fun I had despite being devoured by mosquitoes. Also, I told him I was sad he did not pay me with the workers. He listened, and then he stepped away. Soon after, he returned to my room, apologized for not rewarding me for my work, and handed me an envelope with my “payment.” I was stunned and overjoyed, but not because of the money! I was thrilled because I felt valued, recognized, and acknowledged. Deep down, I knew my dad did not have to do what he did. However, rather than telling me I did not contribute much, should not complain, and should be grateful he took me on the trip, he prioritized my sense of worth over his ego.

Over the years, I saw my dad consistently consider the needs of others – often above his, as he did with me that Thursday morning. He freely gave others the platform by asking questions, admitting his mistakes, and apologizing if he hurt others. I admire my dad greatly, and from him, I learned the powerful connection between success and humility: Success and humility are not opposing forces. They are partners. – Being down to earth endears us to others and enables us to restore and fortify relationships.

Friend, could you imagine how we would feel in our homes and workplaces if more of us were down to earth? It starts with one person.

Until next time.

For you and to you,


Image credit: Pexels | Oleksandr P



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