Trade Hubris for Humility

Salko ‘21,  Kyra  ‘20,  Jake  ‘20, me,  Matt  ‘18.5,  Nate  ‘19,  John  ‘21,  Samanee  ‘19

Salko ‘21, Kyra ‘20, Jake ‘20, me, Matt ‘18.5, Nate ‘19, John ‘21, Samanee ‘19

One of the reasons I love mentoring students is because it keeps me learning, exploring, questioning and challenging my beliefs – keeping me relevant and useful to the world (I hope!).  So, I’m sharing part of a wonderful conversation with one of my #BlueLobsters (mentees), Salko, a second year at Brown (front left at the “we ate all the” sushi table)


Deb – a question that’s been on my mind recently: How do you make it so you don’t become egotistic as you achieve more?


Ego: This is a hard one for sure!  I can tell you what’s worked for me (now that sounds egotistical 😂) !  

  1. Have a questioning mind, so no matter how much you succeed and achieve (which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proud of your accomplishments), there is always more to learn. I use the ‘learn’ more than ‘achieve’ because it shifts my brain to focus more on the ‘thing’ I’m doing than ‘me’, redirecting the emphasis;

  2. Surround yourself with people who are as bright & brighter than you & want to have impact and ‘achieve’ - that’ll put you in your place! But don’t let that lead to lack of self-confidence - don’t compare yourself and feel you’re not as good - we all have our gifts & roles & timing in life;

  3. Stay vulnerable - always be willing to admit you don’t know the answer and you need help - that allows others around you to feel free to vulnerable and also leaves you more open to learn.  Almost all the people I’ve met who are really the best in their field are not narcissistic - they are humble, eager to learn and eager to share…. it’s a matter of putting it into perspective.  Lesson? Trade Hubris for Humility!

Trade Hubris for Humility


I fear that by being surrounded by this "high-achieving energy", I'll be too focused on doing stuff and doing stuff and doing stuff all so I can be "successful and great" (or reach outlandish goals), but lose some genuine human connection and my relationships along the way (because I fear I won't pay much attention to them). Like I will lose interest to keep in touch with old friends and family members because "they're not doing things or interested in things that would bring my goals to fruition". Now how would you handle that?


So you’re worried you’ll become so obsessed with making a mark, having a huge impact (however you define that) that you won’t view time/relationships with people who aren’t doing (as) cool things or aren’t into helping you do your things (faster/better), as either equally or even somewhat as important as your ‘goals’?  Yup, that could happen. Yup, that’s kind of hypocritical.  And usually it happens slowly (like the boiled frog syndrome) so you’re not aware of it until it’s (almost) too late. How do you handle that? Well, a few things:

  1. See #2 above – People!!!! Surround yourself with people who care a ton about you, who will hold you accountable to the values you’ve said matter to you, who uphold the same values in their own lives. People who remind you that your friends and family are not functions to serve and provide for you but to be with you, love you, accept you and enrich who you are AND as you should do likewise!  Also, depending on who the people are around you, they may want you to hold them accountable as well, which is a round-about way of holding yourself accountable;

  2. Schedule time with old friends & family – time to facetime/video, email, text, visit in real life – this may sound trite but sometimes we need to do the basics – like blocking time in our calendar so we don’t forget.  It doesn’t mean we’re trivializing or demeaning the relationship, it means that it matters to us and we worry we’ll forget and so we make sure we don’t.  Remember, unfortunately, the day to day usually beats out the important for our attention. 

  3. Oh! Remember to have fun - a lot of it! Helps to put things into perspective!

Remember to have fun - a lot of it!


I'm afraid of it changing into something I won't be able to predict! 


I changed into something I NEVER would have predicted and it’s been the BEST THING EVER!!


Reflections ~ One Month Post-BIF

Saul Kaplan  Starting Day 2 of  BIF  - Photo by  Stephanie Alvarez Ewens

Saul Kaplan Starting Day 2 of BIF - Photo by Stephanie Alvarez Ewens

Every year, the crew at BIF lets me bring a bunch of my Brown University students to BIF. My students are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, years and concentrations - #STEAM. This year, I asked the kids to share their reflections. Profound, personal, hopeful, cautious. Here are their thoughts.

Everyone is special and has something to offer the world and to teach each of us

Too often, too many people go unnoticed and unappreciated by society and by even by themselves. Miraculously, people find and activate their potential, even when they didn’t think they had any. That potential, when realized, impacts others - helping them see their potential and getting and giving second, third plus chances. Despite what we hear from the media, our world is filled with good people. Everyone has something to teach us … and everyone is magic.

LISTEN! Stories matter!

LISTEN! It’s important to let stories soak into us and to find ways they can inform & improve our own lives and experiences. Stories are how we learn from the very beginning. They are examples, not instructional guidelines (which are 1 size fits all). Stories aren’t a “do this, do that, then this happens.” They require us, the listener, to do the work of weighing that story against our own values and decide how and what parts to apply to our own lives. Stories can make magic happen.

Use the Network for Good.

The network, along with many of our privileged lives, has the potential for doing good. Our networks and advantages can and should be used to open opportunities for others. There are so many great people in the world. You have to be open to finding them, willing to meet them and to expand your network with and for them. The network spreads magic.

It seemed that, in particular, this year, BIF invigorated my students to make a difference (which is saying a lot since these kids are wired to have a positive impact by default!). They left with Darden Smith’s words - Know where you are starting, what you stand for, who you’re not, and be willing to wander and wonder! Then, think big and run with it!

Trinity Rep Dome. Photo by  Stephanie Alvarez Ewens

Trinity Rep Dome. Photo by Stephanie Alvarez Ewens

A very special thanks to BIF for letting my 20+ students attend and to my students for sharing their thoughts (Samanee, Salko, David, Eric, Kyra, Stefan, Manny and others).


Had such a blast doing my 2nd DisrupTV* episode with my wonderful friend, Vala Afshar, and Alan Lepofsky (sitting in for Ray Wang).  Talked about mentoring, innovation, thinking & doing!

See the full episode with Jim Cathcart & Bruce Kasanoff here.

Please follow DisrupTV - it's the best grad school for all things relevant to our world today!!! Subscribe to the podcast so you can listen when you can't watch!

*1st DisrupTV here.