Ha‘aha‘a, the value of humility

Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine: January/February 2015 Hawai‘i island issue.
Previously in this series: ‘Ike loa, the value of learning.

Sunset Honu by Rosa Say

Let’s talk story about initiative, humility, and ‘the local way.’

Having initiative is a very good thing. With initiative you use the ability to assess situations; you have insight. You can begin things independently, and you do. You’re a self starter, and you’re koa, courageous.

Those who act on their initiative have the freshest opportunity to use their imagination, their intuition, and their common sense. They enjoy the results of the first testing. They’ll be the ones to see where improvements begin, and ‘Ike loa is likely to follow suit: They’ll learn the quickest.

When you go first, you arrive first. You’ll often be the one to dictate the next move as well, for you now know more. You’ve done more, and you’ve experienced more. Others rely on you to speak up and share what you know, because they recognize that you have experience-based knowledge influencing your decisions. You’re interesting. You’re trusted.

As a parent, I pray that my children will seize initiative often, for I know it will serve them well. As a manager, I want those benefits for my people too, for I know that they become so much stronger and self-confident: Initiative plants strong seeds of healthy self-esteem.
So why then, do we squash initiative so much, thinking it the humbler, local thing to do?
Why do we hold back in the “local way” which claims there’s no problem, no hesitation, no fear, and says we’re just being humble, allowing others to be the ones who get to go first? We say we don’t need prompting, and we’d go for it if we needed to.

Is that really what’s happening?

You’re the only one who knows for sure about your own choices. And maybe you really are being gracious, and allowing others to reap the goodness from what acted-upon initiative delivers. All I can say about it, is this: Tell yourself the truth.

Start with those times you’re alone, and there is no one else around to let go first. It’s all on you. You or nobody. Do you hesitate? Now what’s your truth?

I suspect that we local people can go first and lead the way in a wide range of different circumstances, but we hold ourselves back, and we don’t get started. Why not?

Just imagine what could happen if we did. Just imagine if we thought of initiative as perishable, as fleeting as inspiration can be, and as something we never let escape us, or go to waste. Not only is it perishable, it’s precious, for initiative is about leadership. More accurately, it’s where self-leadership begins so that servant leadership can then pitch in and take over.

We readily think of Ha‘aha‘a, humility, in servant leadership, when it’s actually in all leadership. We’re thought wise invoking humility at the ending of our challenges, yet we can also have it at the beginning, and all through our good works.

We need to stop hiding behind these claims of humility and start. We all need to go for it more than we do; I know I do. We need to lead the way with fresh ideas and novel approaches, and then we can extend invitations to others to come with us so that going first isn’t such a solitary, lonely prospect. Leadership is very much about imagination willing to come out and get the playing started, inviting others to join in on the party.

To practice our Hawaiian value of humility, invite Ha‘aha‘a in when striving for achievement: Make room for others to come with you. Take notice of those standing on the sidelines waiting for your invitation to join you, and share your Aloha.

Ha‘aha‘a will also wrap things up wonderfully at the end, when it is time to say Mahalo, and share credit for all the good which just happened. You won’t just be saying humble-sounding words, you will have experienced humility’s pleasurable partnerships.

Those things are “the local way” too. Sharing Aloha, sharing the Mahalo of thankfulness and appreciation, and sharing the credit of ‘Ohana is as local as it gets!

The next time you can go first, grab hold of your initiative and go for it, knowing that Ha‘aha‘a will be your complement and companion, and not some feigned conflict. Start the party. Ha‘aha‘a, and the true value of humility in our culture, is actually waiting in the wings way too much, wondering when in the world we’ll get started with all sorts of different things, for what Ha‘aha‘a humbly shares is the human capacity for all our cultural values: Think of Ha‘aha‘a as an invited abundance.

Ha‘aha‘a doesn’t hold us back in any way whatsoever. Ha‘aha‘a needs us to start, so it can intercept in our middles, and help us celebrate at the finish line.

Until next time ~ Rosa Say

Sunset Honu by Rosa Say

For more on Ha‘aha‘a, I invite you to visit my Ha‘aha‘a index archived on www.ManagingWithAloha.com

Next in this series: Ho‘ohanohano the value of dignity
The inaugural column in this series may be read here: Why Values? And Why “Manage with Aloha?”