What is the difference between "humility" and "self-deprecation"? What is important when you fail [Makiko Shinoda x Takaya Matsuda] 《HERALBONY and the Philosophy of Language》

We have started a new series called "HERALBONY and the Philosophy of Words," which takes a simple and thorough philosophical look at the various "words" we use every day without thinking about them.

HERALBONY has been confronting and updating various "preconceptions" embedded in words up until now. In this series, HERALBONY's CEOs Matsuda and I will discuss the "philosophy of words" together with opinion leaders active in various fields such as business, art, welfare, and academia in order to break free from the spell of words and expand the circle of thought in which 8 billion "unique people" can play active roles with vitality.

In the first episode, we will philosophize about the word "humility" with Makiko Shinoda, Director of Ale Co., Ltd.

The words of my mentor that I want to cherish, especially as a venture company

Takaya Matsuda (hereinafter, Matsuda): There is a reason why I chose "humility" as the first philosophical word in this series. In fact, at HERALBONY, we hold "honesty and humility" as a value (code of conduct) that all members hold dear.

But what does this word really mean? I wanted to increase the resolution so that it could be properly conveyed to not only us involved in management, but also to the members, artists, and everyone else involved with HERALBONY, so I chose it as a chance to philosophize with Shinoda-san.

Makiko Shinoda (hereinafter, Shinoda): I see. I think it's a wonderful word. I personally like the word "humility." Let's philosophize together.

Matsuda: Thank you. Five years have passed since our founding, and when I thought about what we should value as a company called HERALBONY, I felt that "sincerity and humility" was what I wanted to focus on.

Let me explain the background a little bit. One person who was indispensable to me at that time was the TV writer and scriptwriter Kundo Koyama, who I could call my "mentor". Mr. Koyama was my seminar teacher in college and also the president of my previous company. When I joined Mr. Koyama's company as a new graduate, I was a really bad new employee, but I sent Mr. Koyama an email as a New Year's greeting saying, "Right now I'm really no good, but I'll try my best from now on." I received a wonderful reply at that time.

There was a passage in it that went like this: " Be considerate of everyone and be the most humble person of all. As long as you are humble, the people around you will give you lots of wisdom and hints. They will help you. You are already humble enough right now. Don't forget that attitude and work with even more passion. "

I have treasured these words as a talisman in my life, and even now I keep them saved in my smartphone and reread them from time to time.

Shinoda: That's a really good thing to say.

Matsuda: Since growth is required for startups, there is a tendency for the atmosphere to be aggressive, such as "We're going to increase our sales by several times from now on!" However, as Mr. Koyama said in his message, I want to maintain a "humble" attitude and maintain it. And I want to be sincere. I thought that if we continue to value this not only for myself but for the whole company, we will eventually become a presence that everyone can truly support, so I made it a value.

"Intellectual humility" - willing to go beyond your own boundaries and learn when times get tough

Shinoda: I really empathized with what you just said. I don't have any "guidelines" for myself, but I am careful not to lie. "Don't lie" implies intention, so I say "don't lie." I love the word "intellectual humility," and this word overlaps with mine.

For example, in shogi, there is a "post-game" after the game. Whether you win or lose, you look back on the game with a straight face, saying, "Because I played like this here, the situation changed, didn't it?" The loser must feel really frustrated. For some people, it can even end their careers.

Even so, he sets aside his personal feelings and asks himself seriously what he can learn from this situation. I think that attitude is exactly what "intellectual humility" is. I love and admire that attitude.

"Not telling lies" includes this kind of "intellectual humility" and an attitude of going beyond oneself and striving for the good of the whole.

Matsuda: Oh, that's a really great story.

Shinoda: In the short term, if you want to make things go smoothly, you can say one thing to person A and another to person B, and somehow make things go smoothly. That's what adults do. But in the long term, when many people are involved and working together to get things done, that kind of attitude doesn't work. In the end, I think that only the "truth" will work.

Shinoda-san looks spring-like in his HERALBONY scarf that reads "Ambition - Now is the time for a new challenge, a man of the year" and his green jacket.

What I learned from the experience of being caught up in something long-winded

Matsuda: Only the "true" thing works. I think so, and I'm also reflecting on myself. I'm a shallow person, so I'm very sensitive to things that aren't true, or shallow.

Two or three years after we founded HERALBONY, we licensed our products to a few mass retailers. Afterwards, when I went to the store to look at them, I saw piles of products with artists' works printed on them on sale. When I saw that, I was shocked to realize that I had damaged both the company's brand and the artists' precious works. I immediately apologized to the companies that had licensed our products and ended our partnership, which was a bitter experience.

At the time, I felt like we had strayed from where we should have been and had been "caught up in something long-winded."

Shinoda: "I did it..."

Matsuda: That's true. I deeply regretted it.

The works of world-renowned artist Yayoi Kusama are often printed on affordable goods and miscellaneous items. This is because her works are housed in world-famous art museums such as MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York) and are recognized as having unshakable value as art.

I hope that in the future, HERALBONY will be known as a "cultural company." To achieve this, it is important to make a profit by selling products that the general public can purchase, but at the same time, we must also work to ensure that artists' works are recognized for their value as art. I believe that only when these two wheels are in place can we become "authentic." Working with mass retailers was clearly a departure from that.

Shinoda: But if you're a newly founded startup and you get a request from a mass retailer, you're probably like, "Yes!"

Matsuda: I did (laughs). I thought, "Let's do it! Let's do anything that will make us money! I'm happy to get an offer from a major company!"

Shinoda: That's right, that happens to every venture.

Matsuda: Yes... That really hit me hard afterwards.

What is the difference between "humility" and "self-deprecation"? The attitude we tend to take when we fail.

Shinoda: The situation that Matsuda-san mentioned, "I messed up...", is not limited to people who run businesses, but also happens often at the individual level. It happens to me all the time (laughs). In those cases, I think many people want to overreact and say, "It's my fault. I'm the one at fault. I want to just disappear...". But that's not "humility" but "self-deprecation".

I feel like there is a misconception in the world that humility means lowering yourself to the max. But that's not the case. It's dangerous to mix "humility" and "self-deprecation" together!

I have always thought that "humility" is a state in which you are conscious of how you are seen by others and of yourself looking at the whole picture. In other words, it is a state in which you have what is called "metacognition." In contrast, "self-deprecation" is a state in which you completely lack this and simply blame and belittle yourself. In fact, I myself often fall into a state of "self-deprecation," so I thought I would talk about it as a warning to myself.

Matsuda: I myself have struggled with finding it very difficult to put into words what "humility" means, so I was surprised to hear you now put it into words so clearly.

Shinoda: When you "belittle yourself," you end up being self-centered. It makes the people around you feel uncomfortable, and doesn't add anything positive to the overall result. Of course, that's not what you intend to do.

Furthermore, being "humble" will help you build good relationships with people and open up various opportunities, but being "degrading" will make you seem difficult to deal with and opportunities will shrink away. I think that's the difference between "humility" and "degrading." Therefore, I think that as a company, maintaining an attitude of "honesty and humility" will increase the number of people who trust you and help build your brand.

Matsuda: Thank you. I'm very happy to hear you say that.

In the second installment, we will continue to philosophize with Makiko Shinoda about the word "humility." Next time, we will focus on the theme of whether it is possible for people and companies to "challenge" and remain "humble."

Click here for the second part>> How can we balance a "challenging attitude" with "humility"? [Makiko Shinoda x Takaya Matsuda | Part 2]

Edited by: Yuko Umino (Heralbony)
Text: MaruPro
Photo: Yudai Omokawa

Items featured in this article

Stole "Aspirations - Now it's time for a new challenge, man of the year"
Cushion "(Untitled) (Blue)" | Cushion "Numbers"


Micro bag "Aspirations - Now on to the fight, a new challenge, a man of the year" | Handkerchief "Aspirations - Now on to the fight, a new challenge, a man of the year"