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Learning Humility: Shoveling Ashes

The boy is alone wandering on an empty road. He has no money, no friends, no place to go. Eventually, he finds a town, far from home. No one knows him. He seeks a job in order to make enough money to feed himself but no one will hire the boy because he is a stranger and has no skills. Finally, the cook in the King’s court hires the boy out of pity. He gives him the lowliest job in the kingdom; shoveling ashes from the cooking fires. It is hot, dirty and heavy labor. This boy, who had been the prince, now finds himself day after day, year after year, doing menial labor just to survive.


Is this not Iron John’s second great gift to the boy. He gave him his golden hair which, one day, will be the source of his great success. It will, one day, be the foundation of his kingdom.


But, before he is ready to ascend his throne, he must master the character quality of humility.


Humility is the ability to accurately assess your value in relation to others. When we lack humility we think too much of ourselves. We enjoy having a sense of superiority over those around us. We like to flaunt our success, our possessions, our credentials.


Until we truly understand our connectedness to each other, our ability to be great is severely limited. Our interest is too focused on ourselves to have its optimal impact. We have not yet learned how to use our gifts for the benefit of the whole.


We should appreciate the times we have done such jobs as shoveling ashes. Perhaps there were times when you mowed lawns, changed diapers, hung drywall, mopped floors or shoveled snow. Physical labor reminds us that we put our pants on just like every other person; one leg at a time. It reminds us what we share in common with each other is much more profound than that which is different.


Foster your humility. It will serve you well.


Curious about Iron John? Read the story here.

About Jack Skeen

Jack Skeen
Jack Skeen, founder of Skeen Leadership, has been coaching bright and successful leaders for close to two decades, spending thousands of hours addressing every imaginable leadership, business and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.

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