True Humility Explained
Today, I’m interviewing the author of the book True Humility (River Grove Books, October 2, 2021). Born in Singapore and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Gavin Seah is the founder and chief executive officer of Soil Of Humility—a socio-educational enterprise with a vision to create long-lasting impacts in the aspects of peace, purpose, identity, and social ecosystem shifts. Through his True Humility methodologies, Gavin brings innovative, game-changing solutions at corporates, schools, and communities to resolve pressing societal needs around mental well-being and physical resilience. Gavin’s inspirational story of overcoming tremendous adversities in his formative years through True Humility has already enriched thousands of lives across radio stations, digital magazine features, writers’ festivals, and social media channels. Prior to the launch of Gavin’s previous version of this book in Singapore, he worked in corporate banking at JPMorgan and Big Four accounting firms, including PwC and Deloitte.
Good Men Project: How did you come to write this book and why are you the best author to write on this subject?
Gavin Seah: I have always had a keen interest and passion for literature and writing since I was in high school. But it was not until I was about twenty-one when I came across the topic of humility, did I venture into the area of thought leadership. As I read, studied, and allowed the teachings of humility to make significant, positive headways in my heart and mind, I was completely transformed from an ashamed teenager to a grounded, humble adult. This allowed me to adopt a balanced approach toward my life, which empowered me to be consistent in my inner and outer self.
I was inspired to share the beautiful value of humility with modern readers across the globe. In reading many books on the subject of humility, I found that all of the authors recognized that humility is an underrated trait. Though humility is often overlooked, I believe my book can bring us closer to engaging in conversations that bring it into the light. I designed easy-to-understand concepts, strategies, and relatable characters intended to make humility more accessible. I’ve lived the lessons and practices in this book, and feel I can enrich people’s lives by sharing the valuable insights I’ve gleaned.
GMP: What does it mean to you for a person to have true humility? How does one demonstrate it or how is humility manifested?
GS: True Humility begins with embracing one’s strengths and weaknesses equally: a 50/50 balanced mindset. As one recognizes areas of improvement and their abilities to add value to others, True Humility will begin to affect their everyday life positively and their emotional responses will begin to appear more holistic. More often than not, a person who embodies True Humility is self-assured, grounded, and poised.
A person who is empowered by a True Humility practice would also naturally think beyond the self. As individuals walk the walk of True Humility, they will begin to manifest a mindset focused on others. It’s a matter of perspective. Are you able to wake up each day asking yourself: “what can I do to help others today?” instead of “what can I do to make myself happy?”
GMP: In your book, you discuss how you embrace humility as a core value. How did you discover that humility was important to you?
GS: Because of my father’s work, I had to attend seven schools in seven years between the ages of ten and seventeen, in both Singapore and Melbourne. As a result of the frequent changes, I was a subject of severe bullying, racism, and ostracism. I suffered from deep loneliness all those years. Through the difficult journey, I eventually fell into what I call False Humility, an overly weakness-focused mindset. I focused on the negative. “I was never good enough to make a friend,” or, “I will never be able to find peace and stability.” In gravitating toward False Humility, I often found myself upset, fearful, and anxious. It was an emotional state which I grew to dislike, yet felt increasingly comfortable to stay in for longer periods than I ought to.
However, when I came to discover the value of humility, it transformed me. True Humility allowed me to see the parts of me that I never wanted to see as a teenager: my strengths. Looking back now, what I actually saw were my courage, resilience, and persistence to get through difficulties, challenges, and setbacks. Today, when I am faced with a moment of adversity, I remind myself that I can count on my strength to stay resilient as well as my weakness to recognize that difficult times are part of the journey toward becoming a better self.
GMP: How would you guide a young adult from selfish behavior toward true humility that benefits the person’s community?
GS: I believe that when a young adult understands how their selfish behavior negatively impacts them, they are able to make a positive change toward a True Humility practice. One of my favorite examples, which I share with students during workshops, is the story of Christopher McCandless, the key protagonist in the film, Into The Wild. Christopher is a classic example of today’s modern young adult YOLO mindset, which stands for you only live once. Upon graduating from university, Christopher decided to drop everything he had: a budding law career, his family, and all material possessions just to live in the wild. For many months, Christopher lived a carefree life, he enjoyed nature, the beautiful sunsets, and the wild animals until a life-changing moment when he consumed a poisonous flower. He found himself too deep in the forest to seek help and eventually died a slow death. In his last moments, Christopher looked up to the sky and said, “Happiness is only real when shared.” In those final few minutes of his life, he realized that his self-focused endeavors were meaningless and purposeless.
Through Christopher’s example, we learn to avoid selfish behavior and take a bolder step toward practicing True Humility to bless others and depend on others for happiness. This usually brings much greater joy and pleasure both to others and to yourself. In doing so, we will be able to avoid committing a similar YOLO course of action like Christopher, only to look back on our selfish mistakes with regret.
GMP: Why is it important for humans to seek peace and balance in the world today? More importantly, why is it so difficult for us to do so?
GS: We live in difficult times where everyone is struggling in some ways with mental well-being, positivity, and hope. When we have peace and balance, it will most certainly help us to find respite and joy in our everyday lives. Crucially, when we individually possess peace and balance, it will transcend beyond ourselves and positively uplift and empower those around us.
Increasingly, in modern society, it has been difficult for each of us to find peace and balance. With our modern self-focused trends such as the YOLO mindset, social media dependency, and wanderlust fighting for our attention, many of us fall into a self-focused mindset and become prone to its negative effects. One such negative effect is that of FOMO, which stands for a Fear Of Missing Out, leading us to a place of deep-set anxiety and in worse cases, depression. Over time, this could create a vicious cycle where almost everything and anything leaves the person feeling unhappy, suffering from a lack of peace and balance.
GMP: What was your experience with trying to find your own peace and balance? How did you achieve it?
GS: I achieved True Humility through an A.R.T. (Assess, Reflect, Think) Methodology, empowering me toward attaining peace in my life. I started by taking a step back to assess how I led a life that left me feeling imbalanced. From there, I was able to point out some of my key influencing factors such as the YOLO mindset and social media dependency, which often caused me to feel overly self-focused. The second step was to reflect on how I intend to make positive changes to my everyday actions and behaviors. On reflection, I recognized that other-centered activities such as committing time to mentor my peers or volunteering at a community group allowed me to spend less time focusing on selfish needs or wants. The third step was to think about how potential positive changes could impact those around me. In applying the A.R.T. methodology in my everyday life on a consistent basis over the past years, I eventually found my true peace and balance.
GMP: Assuming that I am unhappy, what can I do to make myself happy and why is it important for me to try?
GS: What I have always found to be helpful is to apply your True Humility value to harness happiness as a byproduct. For example, if you constantly force yourself to find happiness when you singularly focus on asking yourself what should I do now to be happy, it will be difficult to ever feel satisfied.
One practical way that I apply True Humility is to deploy my strengths in a given moment to help someone out. In my pursuit of empowering someone else, it can bring me positivity and happiness in turn. This is especially so when the person who has received your support smiles at you and appreciates your help. In other words, instead of chasing happiness, happiness finds you.
GMP: What factors make it challenging for many people in our society to find emotional stability? What kind of emotional instability did you experience prior to writing about it in your book?
GS: In modern society, key factors that have made it challenging for many people to find emotional stability include a lack of peer support, community support, and fear of emotional vulnerability. As a result, it can be challenging for people to share their concerns at work, in school, or even with their close family and friends. Further, turning to social media for answers can be daunting for many, as the toxic elements of life online are a constant threat. It’s no wonder that concern surrounding mental well-being is escalating rapidly.
For me, prior to writing about the challenges I share in my book, I faced a lot of internal resistance of where and with whom I could seek support. In turning to social media, I often found myself scrambling for answers and coming out of the process feeling even more lost and unsure of myself. Looking back, it was not easy. I definitely feel a lot better now that I have found the opportunity to share my struggles in my book. Writing was a cathartic process for me, and I hope my story and the advice I share will bring True Humility into many lives.
Find Gavin Seah on Instagram at @thetruegavin and on Facebook at @SoilOfHumility, where he shares more musings on his exciting True Humility journey. Learn more about Gavin Seah and his book, True Humility, on his website SoilOfHumility.com.
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