A while back, Pavel Tsatsouline posted a great article entitled "The Way You Carry Your Strength Matters". He used a great example of humble strength by referencing a powerlifting meet in which an elite level lifter asked, with the utmost respect, if he could borrow a few of another lifter's plates to warm up with. The lifter in question happened to be a first-time powerlifter.
"The pit was crowded but we did manage to find an empty bar and started setting up. Bob was intimidated, surrounded by guys three times bigger and five times stronger than himself. Growls from the competition platform outside did not help. Bob was loading a bar with 135 when a man with no neck towered over him. The lifter's voice boomed, 'Are you guys using these plates? Do you mind if I grab them?' Bob could not believe his eyes or ears. And for the rest of his lesson he was treated with utmost respect by the shaved head crew that had set up their warm-up station next to us, even getting called 'sir' a few times..." See the rest of the article here: http://www.strongfirst.com/the-way-you-carry-your-strength-matters/
Bob learned a great lesson that day, which was that truly strong people can have class. Mr. No-Neck was respectful enough to ask to borrow Bob's plates to warm up. He didn't scoff at the fact Bob had only 135 pounds on the bar. He didn't try to assert his dominance over Bob in any way, in fact. He simply asked him a question with no judgment attached! Food for thought...
High school and college track and field provided me with a vast array of friendships and competitors, some of whom I enjoyed competing with, and some of whom I loathed. Why? Because many of these sprinters thought they were God's gift to the sport! In college, especially, I remembered thinking to myself, "If you're God's gift to the sport, why aren't you sponsored? Why aren't you at a division 1 school, like Oregon, for example? Why, for Pete's sake, are you thumping your chest and moaning like a gorilla in heat as you get in the blocks?" Thoughts like those permeated my brain on an almost weekly basis, as my confusion at these athlete's humility (or lack thereof) increased with every meet.
And it wasn't even like I was the slow kid, either! In high school I placed first in the 200 meter dash, and second in the 100 meter dash at the conference finals, securing my place in the 4A division state meet. At the time, 4A was the largest division in Oregon, where typically the best athletes resided. When I crossed the finish line after my 200 meter race, the timers had the athletes stand in their lanes as they got the times and places finalized. One of them asked me, "Wait, who are you again?" Apparently all of the chest thumping and growling from the guys in the lanes next to me distracted the timers from little ol' me, who shook hands, nodded, and wished my competitors a great, safe race before silently getting in the blocks.
I remember giggling, thinking, "I'm the scrawny, pasty white kid who just won!" Even I was shocked, as I hadn't expected a win, or a big personal best that day. But what it really solidified for me was the fact that to be humble doesn't take anything away from potential performance. Yes, there will always be great athletes who ARE arrogant. But there will also be those who aren't. And those are the ones who will remain respected long after their time has passed. Because in the end, there will ALWAYS be someone better. Period. I've learned to accept that I won't be the next Pelé, Usain Bolt, or Rafael Nadal. So what right have I, you, or anyone else for that matter, to act like an arrogant prick when we have success at something? None. None at all.