“How Are You Weird?” The Importance of Being Humble

Wednesday night, I walked downtown to a startup event by IdeaMensch. Many great talks at the event from non-profit all the way to web startups and offline retail (ice cream). My favorite talk was from Rand Fishkin, of SEOmoz's fame, a talk that's highly energetic, educational, and entertaining. (link to slides)


One of the things he talked about that really stuck with me was the topic of humility. The importance of being humble seems to be a lost art in this day of age, when everyone around us is shouting, and media constantly reminds us of rich bastards with huge egos.

The fact is, without humility, we cannot, well, level up. Without the ability to see our own faults and weaknesses, we lose the ability to better ourselves. 

But what about in the business world? Wouldn't being humble make people think your company is weak, less capable than the competitors who are promising to reinvent the reinventions everyday?

Not if you are building trust with your customers. Being humble is to be honest with yourself, with your users, your suppliers, your employees... - everyone involved and affected by your business. I can't think of any other way of building trust than being honest. And if you are not building trust with your customers, you probably shouldn't be serving them at all. 

A business, just like a person, can only continue to improve itself and build trust if humility is in its DNA.

We cannot afford not to be humble - losing the ability to learn and the ability to be trusted is no way to live or to run a business:

Humility is the pre-requisite to true greatness. 

In his talk, Rand mentioned a way at SEOmoz to see if a candidate will pass the humility culture requirement - they ask this question during interviews: "How are you weird?"

How are you weird?

It's not an easy question to answer. It requires us to admit things we are not proud of. It requires us to put our egos down, and be... our real selves. 

How am I weird? I couldn't stop asking myself after the talk. Here are a few things that make me weird:

I am constantly fiddling with things (this drives my wife crazy), I pick up other people's habits and ways of speech, I take risks that are seemingly large, but obsessively worry about the smallest things...  

What about you? How are you weird? 

Lessons Learned Building Moz from Rand Fishkin