Commencement Season has its fair share of poignant words on both leadership and failure, but few as witty and wise as Jon Lovett’s speech to the graduating class of Pitzer College (thanks Joseph). He captures both the excruciatingly challenging job of pursuing upside and protecting downside at the same time. He also send a strong message of embracing the failure of what you know and erring on the side of failure when torn between risky contribution or safe silence…

  • “You are also very annoying because there is a lot that you don’t know that you don’t know…F. Scott Fitzgerald once said ‘The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed views in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. That’s what you have to do. You have to be confident in your potential and aware of your inexperience. And that’s really tough…There’s a reminder that it’s not mutually exclusive to be confident and humble…I’d rather be wrong and cringe than right and regret not speaking up.”

Friend Barrie Hopson also captured this duality of ambitious upside and humble downside in a recent post. His specialty subject of ‘Portfolio Working’ is also all about balance. In both professional and personal life. He even coins a word for those rare individuals who can manage both sides – “Humbition” sharing the quote of Jane Harper, a 30-year veteran of IBM…

  • Humbition is one part humility and one part ambition. We notice that by far the lion’s share of world-changing luminaries are humble people. They focus on the work, not themselves. They seek success–they are ambitious–but they are humbled when it arrives. They know that much of that success was luck, timing, and a thousand factors out of their personal control. They feel lucky, not all powerful… So be ambitious. Be a leader. But do not belittle others in your pursuit of your ambitions. Raise them up instead. The biggest leader is the one washing the feet of others.”

Leaders are ambitious, Managers are humble. Both together exhibit ‘humbition’.

May all the Classes of 2013 have a Humbitous future ahead.