We are living in times when people are trying more than ever to be heard. With all the “noise” that surrounds us, whether via social media, the 24-hour news cycle, the dumbing down of language, the raising of voices or the woeful examples provided by so-called leaders on a national and international basis, we seem to be fighting for our own space. Sadly, politicians are especially noisy as they try to grab headlines to match their bulging egos. The saddest aspect of this race to be heard is the trashing of many of the values that were always applied to being a “good” person or citizen. Religion used to guide us but it has sadly lost its own way by not only trashing its “brand” but also by not recognising the changes occurring in humankind.
All of this got me thinking about a special event that happened in my life almost 50 years ago, the importance of which came during the normal January reflective time in my life and my thinking about lost values and other detrimental societal changes.
Back in the day I was dating a lovely girl whose family were neighbours of Sir Robert Menzies. The political legend had moved into his later years but was still roundly respected on all sides of politics. He had real gravitas and when the invitation came to join the family dinner table with Sir Robert and Dame Pattie as special guests on a winter’s Saturday night, I respectfully accepted. The proviso was that I would be slightly later than the appointed hour, as it was a Saturday and I would have to come after playing football for Geelong in the old VFL. Perhaps I was coming from Essendon or Footscray – I can’t recall.
What concerned me most was what I might say to Sir Robert on being introduced. I mentally workshopped it but couldn’t find the solution. I didn’t want to grovel and was hopeful I might be respectful. Kids today are better than we were but in the end, I decided to go with the flow. Wait and see.
Upon arrival, I was ushered into the living room where the diners were sitting with their aperitifs. Without even looking at the individuals, I could feel the presence of the ex-PM in the room. My poor girlfriend got scant regard as I nodded acknowledgements to her family and then proceeded to Sir Robert’s chair in the corner. I was ready. But not for this. He lifted his bulk from the chair, moved towards me with his hand stuck out and said “Young Andrews. I’ve always admired the way you play football.” My first words could only be Thank you Sir and we easily proceeded from there. Game on. Footy could start the conversation and lead us towards wherever we needed to go. He was famously a Carlton man and I was a Cat. We were equals.
“Young Andrews. I’ve always admired the way you play football.”
Sir Robert Menzies showed a humility which is rarely seen in our modern world, especially from people for whom we might loosely call famous. Here was a man who knew where he sat in the pantheon of all-time respected and famous Australians and yet he knew how to approach a young man who would hold him in awe. Sir Robert knew how to take that pressure off. It wasn’t all about him. True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.
True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.
Sir Robert Menzies came from a humble background, having been born in the small Wimmera township of Jeparit where his father bought the general store. In his earliest days, and throughout his magnificent career, there was nothing fancy about this man. Compare people you meet across the spectrum today, who have got masses of stuff to feel humble about but don’t even understand the meaning of the word.
Without writing a thesis on humility, I went directly to Google to find out what the attributes for anyone wanting to practise humility might be. It’s worth putting them down to see the simplicity of being a little more humble. We don’t have to be perfect but we can make some behavioural adjustments.
Stop talking. Spend more time listening. (There’s nothing worse than speaking and watching somebody else bursting to say what they are thinking with little, if any regard, for what you are saying. And I plead guilty here – often!)
Stop talking. Spend more time listening.
Give other people credit.
Admit when you’re wrong. (Mr President, am I talking to you?)
Ask for advice.
Praise others. Give compliments.
I have often talked and written about “reflective time”, and it is only when we are prepared to action it that we find ourselves sitting on goldmines of knowledge. In all our memory banks, we have our own stories and anecdotes. We know what is right yet we are prepared to step over the line to be heard. We are desperate for it. We crave it. Sir Robert Menzies appeared again for me and I tightened up my thinking. If not now, when