I've been performing onstage for more than five years and producing shows for more than three, and here is something that has become abundantly clear to me:
Humility is a quality to be prized, and it is sadly lacking in many.
As a performer, I oftentimes find myself listening to fellow storytellers lament the ineptitude of the judges at a story slam or the stupidity of producers who refuse to cast them in their shows.
As a producer, I find myself reading emails from storytellers who think it necessary to explain their enormous degree of talent and accomplishment and sometimes even insist on being cast in one of our shows based solely upon that talent.
None of this makes any sense to me. None of it makes me ever want to cast these storytellers in my show, even if they are truly talented and accomplished. I never do.
I am not suggesting that there is a problem with possessing confidence or even assertiveness. But when you lack humility, three things become abundantly clear to me:
1. You will be difficult to work with. Your willingness to accept criticism and collaborate will be seriously compromised by the size of your ego and the certainty of your talent.
2. Your lack of humility demonstrates a fundamental disrespect for your fellow performers. When you complain that the judges were ineffective or wrong, you denigrate the rest of the storytellers competing in a slam and imply that the winner was undeserving. When you argue that the producer of a show should've cast you, you disrespect the storytellers who were chosen instead of you.
There is nothing wrong with thinking that you should have won. There is nothing wrong with confiding with your closest friend that you should've been cast in the show. But announcing your perceived slight to the world demonstrates a fundamental lack of humility that only causes people to distance themselves from you and never want to work with you again.
3. Anyone who needs to compliment themselves repeatedly and publicly - absent of any irony or humor - possesses the thinnest of skins and will invariably be an unpleasant and difficult person to work with.
Here's a rule to teach my fifth graders that would serve many adults in this world (including our President-elect) well:
Compliment others. Allow others to compliment you.
It sounds like common sense, but for many, it is almost impossible.
My agent once told me that she would turn down a project from a writer if she felt that the person would be difficult to work with, even if she knew the project would be profitable. I thought she was a little nuts at the time, but now I understand completely.
Give me an inexperienced, hard working, receptive storyteller willing to accept feedback and looking to improve over any naturally gifted or experienced storyteller who can't stop blustering about his or her talent or what he or she deserves.