What I see in Nature is a magnificnet structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.

~ Albert Einstein


Truly humble

Humility engenders learning because it beats back the arrogance that puts blinders on. It leaves you open for truths to reveal themselves. You don’t stand in your own way. […] Do you know how you can tell when someone is truly humble? I believe there’s one simple test: Because they consistently observe and listen, the humble improve. They don’t assume, ‘I know the way.’

~ Wynton Marsalis


That’s not what I had assumed

Khan’s first powerful victories came from the reorganization of his military units, splitting his soldiers into groups of ten. This he stole from neighboring Turkic tribes, and unknowingly converted the Mongols to the decimal system. Soon enough, their expanding empire brought them into contact with another “technology” they’d never experienced before: walled cities. In the Tangut raids, Khan first learned the ins and outs of war against fortified cities and the strategies critical to laying siege, and quickly became an expert. Later, with help from Chinese engineers, he taught his soldiers how to build siege machines that could knock down city walls. In his campaigns against the Jurched, Khan learned the importance of winning hearts and minds. By working with the scholars and royal family of the lands he conquered, Khan was able to hold on to and manage these territories in ways that most empires could not. Afterward, in every country or city he held, Khan would call for the smartest astrologers, scribes, doctors, thinkers, and advisers—anyone who could aid his troops and their efforts. His troops traveled with interrogators and translators for precisely this purpose.

~ Shane Parrish from,

My understanding had been that Khan was a slew of things—vicious, ruthless, indefatigable, insatiable—which I’m certain I’d picked up through osmosis from countless small direct portrayals and indirect mentions I encountered randomly. I try not to rely on entertainment to be educating, but I hadn’t looked into this larger-than-life historical figure, and had wound up ill-informed.

This piece from Shane Parrish goes on to talk about humility. I don’t think anyone would have used that word to describe Khan. But it does make sense! What would someone who is humble do? (Click through. Click through!) They’d be continuously learning and always open to new ideas. They’d be searching for people who can teach them things. Sure, Khan went a step or three further to burn, pillage, etc. But he also did that continuous-improvement thing.



The artist and the entrepreneur (and all of us on the soul-level) live in an uncertain world. Our trade is in ideas, but who can say where the next one is coming from—or even if there will be a next one?

There’s a wonderful quote from John Gardner or somebody that, alas, I can’t find. The bad paraphrase goes something like this: …

~ Steven Pressfield, from

Yes, I left out the best part to make you click through to his site.

It seems there are three choices:

  1. be a braggadocios asshole, “I am the King of Awesome!”
  2. be faux humble, “little ‘ol me? …I’m nobody, I’ve not done anything.”
  3. be actually humble, “I’m in love with this idea, and I’ve over here quietly working on it.”

Of course, there’s an infinite range of coloring on those axis. But I think my point is clear. I spent a lot of time over in zone 1; that didn’t work out well (for me or anyone else.) I’m disqualified from zone 2; there are simply too many things I’ve done.

Which leads to the problem: Over in zone three, one would necessarily want to sacrifice everything else to nurture the idea. That way lies madness, I think.