A Most Humbling Experience
April 21, 2021

Humility allows for taking chances, pushing comfort zones, seeking/accepting feedback, and appreciating the journey. Humility provides the lens to identify what's working and where changes need to be made. I appreciate the concept and execution of servant leadership. The key to move towards servant leadership starts with setting aside the ego and being humble.

A Most Humbling Experience
I grew up in sports, including playing in the driveway and street with neighbors, watching on TV, and participating in leagues. While I liked multiple sports, my passion was always football. I dreamed of becoming a quarterback (QB) in the NFL. 

 While I did not quite make the NFL, I did sign a free agent contract with the Canadian Football League (CFL), at the time the next tier league to the NFL. Coming from a small college, I was as "rookie" as any first year player in training camp. Having a contract and being in training camp is the first step. However in training camp, the team consists of more players than allowed for the regular season, so making the active roster is the next stressful step.  

In camp, I was competing for the third /final QB spot. There was clearly another competition for the first/second spot with 2 experienced players. Roster cuts occur in stages after each pre-season game. I made it to the last pre-season game. Unfortunately, I did not play in that game, making me even more vulnerable to being cut. 

Cuts occurred on the first practice day after the pre-season game. All players are on the look-out for administrative staff with the hollow phrase of, "the general manager (GM) wants to see you, and bring your playbook." On that fateful day, I was walking to the facility with a teammate. As we entered, the GM was exiting. I could feel both of our hearts pause to see if the GM stopped us. He didn't stop us, and actually said "hey guys" as he passed us clearly on the move.

WHEW! That was close. But am I in the clear?!?! Did I make the active roster?!?!  I had a sense of relief. I did what I went to do and exited the facility. Who was standing there? The GM, "Eric, can I talk to you." 

I was released (cut) and sent home within an hour. Dang, that stung. But what next? As I got back home, I needed to make some cash. My family had a property they planned to build on. They offered my some cash to go and clean up the lot. There I was... standing alone in 90+ degree heat in southern California, cleaning up a lot that was set to be cleared by tractor... cue the tumble weed in the background.

Less than 24 hours after living the dream of being a professional athlete, I was alone with my own thoughts on baron land in the desert.

Humbling experiences can center us, provide insight, and allow an opportunity to reset. In order to get full benefit, we must be vulnerable and willing to feel the experience. Many people are not. They let the fear of this type of experience hold back their potential to grow and thrive. Humbling experiences become part of the foundation of focus, development, and execution. 

How else do we learn to climb the ladder without being knocked down a couple rungs once-in-awhile?

Serving others within our organizations and community requires humility, authenticity and vulnerability.

Topics: leadership
Eric Hannah

Written by Eric Hannah

Eric is an employee benefits advisor at Olivier VanDyk Insurance and a catalyst for change. Through a multi-faceted, two-decade healthcare career, he developed a unique perspective on personal well-being, healthcare navigation and insurance systems. This experience inspired Eric to introduce an innovative approach to employee benefits – putting employers and employees in charge of their own care and spend. Eric believes that employee benefits should be a tool to achieve the optimal employee experience. Today, he helps forward-thinking business leaders develop strategies that create value.