Jack Nicklaus’ 4 Lessons to Master Humility

Golf is one of my favorite sports. It’s an activity my wife and I can enjoy together. And it’s a sport that teaches a great many life lessons, not the least of which is humility.

Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you hit a bad shot – or, worse, you hit a great shot that takes a bad bounce. Raymond Floyd, known for his sense of humor as well as his game, once summed it up well when he said the reason they call it golf is “because all the other four letter words were taken.” Makes sense to me.

Of course, some of the world’s best players have a tendency to lose their sense of humility from time to time. Success can do that to you, as a golfer and as a leader. That’s why it was so interesting to see the humility on display in a video of Jack Nicklaus this week at the Masters golf tournament.

The world’s best have a tendency to lose their sense of humility. Success can do that to you. tweet this

A passenger in the car shot the video as Nicklaus drove down Magnolia Lane toward the clubhouse. To get there, he had to pass through three security checkpoints. Nicklaus won 18 major championships during his career, including six at the Masters. He is, in the opinion of many, the greatest player ever. Needless to say, he’s a welcomed guest at Augusta National, and you might think he’d get – and expect – a somewhat royal welcome. Not quite. 

He was recognized immediately at the first checkpoint, but not so quickly at the second two. When he was recognized, of course, each guard waved him through with great respect. And at the third checkpoint, the guard apologized for not recognizing him more quickly. Here was the response from Nicklaus: “No problem. You don’t have to apologize. You’re doing your job.”

Here are four things I saw in Nicklaus in that video that reflect humility:

1. Humble leaders roll with a quiet confidence.

2. Humble leaders are cordial to people they encounter.

3. Humble leaders don’t make assumptions about how others see them.

4. Humble leaders respect the work others are paid to do.

Everyone who succeeds faces the temptation of pride and ego, but humility is the key to building and sustaining respect and trust. And if you forget, you’re likely to shank your next shot deep into the woods.

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