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The art of humility.

Recently I had been reading up A LOT about the topic of humility.

Humility is a prevailing theme in the bible and the Chinese philosophy book (I-ching). It is reasonable that not everyone believes in the bible, so I shall not expound on biblical chapters and verses in this post.

What I wish to expound on is what the I-ching says about humility through its 謙卦.

“䷎謙 – Qian

Qian indicates progress and success. The superior man, (being humble as it implies), will have a (good) issue (to his undertakings).


Qian indicates progress and success. It is the way of heaven to send down its beneficial influences below, where they are brilliantly displayed. It is the way of earth, lying low, to send its influences upwards and (there) to act. It is the way of heaven to diminish the full and augment the humble. It is the way of earth to overthrow the full and replenish the humble.

Spiritual Beings inflict calamity on the full and bless the humble. It is the way of men to hate the full and love the humble. Humility in a position of honour makes that still more brilliant; and in a low position men will not (seek to) pass beyond it. Thus it is that ‘the superior man will have a (good) issue (to his undertakings).’


(The trigram for) the earth and (that of) a mountain in the midst of it form Qian. The superior man, in accordance with this, diminishes what is excessive (in himself), and increases where there is any defect, bringing about an equality, according to the nature of the case, in his treatment (of himself and others).

The first SIX, divided, shows us the superior man who adds humility to humility. (Even) the great stream may be crossed with this, and there will be good fortune.
‘The superior man who adds humility to humility’ is one who nourishes his (virtue) in lowliness.

The second SIX, divided, shows us humility that has made itself recognised. With firm correctness there will be good fortune.

‘The good fortune consequent on being firm and correct, where the humility has made itself recognised, is owing to the possessor’s having (the virtue) in the core of his heart.

The third NINE, undivided, shows the superior man of (acknowledged) merit. He will maintain his success to the end, and have good fortune.

‘The superior man of (acknowledged) merit, and yet humble:’ – the myriads of the people will submit to him.

The fourth SIX, divided, shows one, whose action would be in every way advantageous, stirring up (the more) his humility.
‘One, whose action would be in every way advantageous, stirs up his humility the more:'(but in doing so) he does not act contrary to the (proper) rule.

The fifth SIX, divided, shows one who, without being rich, is able to employ his neighbours. He may advantageously use the force of arms. All his movements will be advantageous.

‘He may advantageously use the force of arms:’ – correcting, that is, those who do not submit.

The sixth SIX, divided, shows us humility that has made itself recognised. The subject of it will with advantage put his hosts in motion; but (he will only) punish his own towns and state.
‘His humility has made itself recognised:’ – (but) all his aims have not yet been attained. He may employ the force of arms, (but only) in correcting (his own) towns and state.’

Interestingly, the 謙卦 states clearly that there is ALWAYS no harm in being humble. In fact, it asserts that if you are proud, people will necessarily endeavour to pull you down. There is without a single doubt that danger lurks everywhere for a person who is proud, and/or of high profile.

This implies for a truly powerful person to keep quiet and just do your thing. Don’t try to stir drama if there isn’t benefit for yourself.

And if you think about it, the truly powerful people are very often silent. You almost never see them in the media. Because the media doesn’t pay rich or powerful people, and the truly rich knows the dangers of being high profile! 

So it comes to the next question: Why do people want to stir drama/ be high profile/ be attention seeking?

The answer = “ego” / narcissism.

It’s really straightforward. Just think about it. If someone doesn’t do something out of money, then it will get very personal. This is something to be cautious about.

Narcissistic behaviour has started to make me nauseous by the way, especially when I get egoistic clients. So recently I’d learnt how to spot and reject them. 🙂

I also consciously distance myself from narcissistic people. Not difficult at all, if only if you just observe.

So the next question is, how do you differentiate a “fake” humble person from a “real” humble person?

The answer: time will reveal the truth. 

And the next question: “How do I stand out from the crowd to get a promotion if I’m always humble?”

The answer: People have eyes to see, and their hearts will know the truth. They will then want to help you in the dark. And by people, I don’t mean “the media”. 


Karma is always a bitch, so learn to calmly turn the other cheek. (:

This entry was posted in: Random


Hi! This is Wan Wei and some affectionately call me WW. I help people remember you. Also Editor in Chief at IKIGUIDE (www.ikiguide.com), Singapore's first online portal on personal branding.


  1. Not sure how true but I heard that 謙 hexagram is the only one in I Ching which has all six lines = good (as revealed in your post). I guess the only way to investigate this truth is to be ourselves truly humble in all situations!

    One thing I realised about some fake humble people is their odd persistency in ‘denying’ their own accomplishments. Deny once or twice still ok, but deny too many times, it feels pretentious. Truly humble people accept their successes/failures without ego-attachment. They are only mildly affected by praises and criticisms. They don’t deny the reality of their achievement, but they also often attribute it partly to fate/luck. And that’s why they are humble!

    Maybe to be naughty, next time you can try throwing some extravagant praises at ‘humble’ people and see how they react. Maybe there are common tell-tale signs to help us differentiate between true and false humility. And please share if you find them!

    Have fun!

    • It is true! Qian-gua is the only gua that has all six lines as “not negative”.

      You are also right in saying that to test “fake humility” from “real humility”, simply praise the person. Hahaha. The heart never lies. The true humbles won’t be affected too much by praise, but fake humbles will. And they will tend to overreact to the smallest criticisms as they take things personally.

      Implications? Once you know a person’s heart you can know what appeals to them. :p for me, once I find out that a person is narcissistic, I will take necessary precautions to distance and always get things in black and white. Because narcissistic people tend to not honour contracts, treat people as transactional items, and basically overreact to the smallest disagreements. I don’t think these are good for the world at all.

      A separate note is that it is therefore wise to live quietly about your successes and accomplishments. (:

      on hindsight I realised that most of the great PR folks I know are low profile. It’s probably because they understand and interact so much with nonsense and narcissism in others that they decide not to be the same. Check this account by Donald trump’s previous ghost writer:


      So yeahhhh the art of humility lies in the ability to identify fakes and reals, so as to take precautions as well.

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