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Be Humble. Sit Down.

It sounds easy. From the world’s perspective, all that is required for a successful career as a creative or artist is a marshaling of inner strength, talent, hard work, discipline and perseverance—and an understanding that you alone are responsible for your own success or the lack thereof. When failure inevitably happens along the way, the stigma of it can become internalized, without the acknowledgment that success is governed by so many factors beyond human control and can also arrive in different forms beyond wealth and fame—which is why the need for humility is such a necessary part of realizing success and recovering from failure.

The quality of humility is largely thought of as an antidote for arrogance and pride—however in the face of failure, it also carries medicinal properties, providing a mental and spiritual grounding in objectivity and halting a never-ending free-fall into hopelessness. In practicing humility in experiences of failure, perspective can be widened beyond crippling self-deprecation, providing an overall assessment of the oversight(s) that yielded failure and the proper context toward effective problem-solving.

A cinematic illustration of the power of humility takes place in the Indiana Jones film installment, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. During the final act, Indiana’s father, archaeologist Henry Jones, Sr., is shot and wounded by the Nazis to provide incentive for Indiana to retrieve the Holy Grail of Christ, which carries the power of eternal life, for their use. In order to save his father, Indiana must undergo several trials to gain entry into the temple where the cup is being guarded. The first trial, “The Breath of God”, is prefaced with a clue that “Only the penitent man will pass”. In order for Indy to clear the protective trap that has been set, he realizes that he must kneel, and in doing so, escapes decapitation. In parallel, by exercising humility and working to avoid internalizing and personalizing your failures, you can avoid becoming immobilized and losing your head to lost hope.

Within scripture, humility is a key attribute for the success of each prophet that was called to deliver a word to the people of Judah and Israel. Even as some grappled with the responsibility of delivering the messages that were assigned to them, they were brought to a point of humility, where they were able to become empowered to execute their given assignment. In the case of Jeremiah, he experienced a tremendous level of persecution and antagonistic trolling that was unbearable, where in response, he decided that he would no longer speak the word provided to him—but as he soon realized, the word that he contained--and was contained by--was "like a fire shut up in my bones". In humility to that word, he moved forward to speak the truth, in obedience to his calling.

As with success, there is a habit to attribute more credit than is personally due for career failure. With every success, and particularly with failure, there is always an opportunity to gain further insight to the support and execution of your talent and craft. Instead of drowning yourself in the subjectivity of self-hate and the doom of heavy-handed criticism, allow yourself the opportunity for an objective, realistic look at all the factors in play that contributed to your circumstances. In the words of Hip-hop MC, poet and Pulitzer Prize artist, Kendrick Lamar: Be Humble. Sit Down.

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