Each and every person you meet in life gives you an opportunity to learn something and to grow from that encounter. Whether it’s a short meeting lasting just a few minutes or it’s a well-established relationship, our every day interactions with people are collisions of experience from which there is always something to be gained. So, what better place in the world than the bustling metropolis of New York City to take advantage of these encounters, wake up and realize that there’s something every person around you can teach you? Open your eyes and meet the five New Yorkers that can teach you a thing or two about humility and humbleness.
1. The Guy On The Street
When you’re not rushing past him making sure to avoid all eye contact and scoffing with disgust at how bad he might smell, have you ever stopped to consider what really drove that guy to the streets? Sure, there are plenty of people on the street who ended up there because they succumbed to their vices; and sure, you find no reason to feel anything but apathy for these people. But to play devil’s advocate here, it’s not always the case—one glance at your paycheck to expenses ratio might make you realize how easily you could’ve ended up here (and could still) if things hadn’t aligned as well as they did for you. New York isn’t an easy place to survive, and it takes just one job loss and one person too many to not care about you to end up in that same spot as that guy just begging for a few pennies. Regardless of what you want to believe brought them to the streets, it’s important to remember that these people had lives at one point—just like you do now. Don’t help them if you don’t want, but take the reality of their desperate situations as a lesson on how quickly things can change in life and how lucky you are not to be in his shoes.
2. The Street Performer
You’ve seen him everywhere—more often on the subway, in the stations and around the park than on the street—but you’re quite familiar with the street performer in New York. Once out of 15 times, you might actually be entertained by the breakdancing singing, or accordion playing that he has to offer, but it’s not very often. New Yorkers are a diverse crowd, and you don’t need me to tell you that almost every one of them is chasing a dream. But very few of us have the guts to pursue that dream relentlessly and not be discouraged no matter what hardships we face. Most of us can’t even imagine the courage it takes to speak in front of a tough crowd let alone perform in front of one—and knowing full well that most people don’t care. Literally putting yourself out there for the world to applaud or criticize is the hardest thing anyone can do, and this type of perseverance can teach us all about the type of humility it takes to do what you love in the face of adversity.
3. Your Intern
How long ago were you slaving away making a pittance (if anything at all), working long hours just so you could say you had finally gotten your foot in the door in the Big Apple? Probably not long ago. It’s easy to forget what it was like living the slave life of an intern when you finally land your first big-kid job. But as with anything in life, it’s humbling to remember where you came from to get where you are today. In the wake of success, don’t ever forget the struggles you overcame first. Being empathetic of your intern will make sure of that because you,too, were once that starry-eyed college grad, just hoping and praying to get your first break. Remembering how that felt will keep you on your toes and maintain a sense of humility when your big head starts demanding coffee runs.
4. Your Boss
And on the note of realizing that hard work is what moves you forward in life, your boss—no matter what your feelings may be towards him or her—is a prime example of either what you do or don’t want to aspire to be. Where are these people in life? What qualities helped them get there? What are their stories? Regardless of what you appreciate about your boss, he or she has obviously made it this far in life by doing something right. When that big head of yours starts inflating itself from getting your first intern, remember also how far you’ve got to go. Work harder, reach higher, set an example for yourself and those below you, because there is always more to achieve.
5. The Immigrant
New York City isn’t called a melting pot for just any reason; it’s estimated that about 36 percent of New York City is foreign-born. That’s more than one-third of the most populous American city stemming from other parts of the world. And for those of you who have never packed up your bags and literally started a new life in a new world, you should take a moment to digest just how many people around you had the guts to do so—many of them not even fully literate in English. Moving to New York to make it big is a ballsy feat just for the average American, let alone the person who is not only surviving on his or her meager salary and living in tight quarters, but also doing it to support an entire adjusting family. Some people can boast generations of American-born family members, but even your ancestors were strangers to a new land once upon a time—and they,too, were simply in the pursuit of a better life and happiness. So, before you go around touting about your “American heritage” and telling the “foreigners” to go home, try on some humility for size. You might just see New Yorkers from a new perspective.