You can learn from everyone – yes, everyone.* There’s a gold nugget of useful information hidden in everyone’s experiences somewhere.
If I know you, then you can’t possibly know much. You – my friends and family members – are all so ordinary – clueless, even.
Ever thought this? I have. A predictable attitude in one’s teens, I got over it during college, then reverted back to it again in my twenties and thirties.
But think about it. That kind of logic is just plain nuts.
Einstein, the E=mc² guy – he, no doubt, had friends and family. Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel guy – I’ll bet he had friends and family. Do you suppose these fellas’ close friends and families thought old Einy and Mikey couldn’t possibly have much of value to share with them? Probably. Were they right? No. Were they behaving oddly? No. This issue of giving the people closest to us no credit for knowing much of anything – at least, not anything we need to know – is not odd or even new.
Way before Einstein and Michelangelo – back in the first century – Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town ….” While he wasn’t commending his audience for this shortsightedness, he was stating a generally known fact about human nature.
Oh, but that was then. This is NOW. Things are different NOW. We’re far more savvy and enlightened NOW.
Are you kidding?
Today’s biz pundits define an expert as someone in a three-piece suit, carrying a briefcase, 500 miles from home. Get that? He isn’t an expert till he steps off the plane – 500 miles from home. Did he acquire enough knowledge from his flight seatmate to become an expert by the time he deplaned? Did he cram enough for those three hours to become an expert? I don’t think so. He was an expert all along, but no one who knew him personally wanted to think of him as knowing much they’d want to know.
It would appear that for a very long time, we humans have behaved as if we have to NOT know someone before we can give them credit for knowing something. Phrased that way, it does seem a bit daft, doesn’t it? Did I not just say this is plain nuts?
While every age has its brilliants – like Einstein and Michelangelo – star actors and actresses who add significantly to its culture, every age also has those not-so-brilliant bit players. Every age has those who, though not brilliant, have personally experienced a lot and also learned from others along their way. Your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles may even be part of this group. But human nature being what it is, heaven forbid that you should listen to them – people you know.
Everyone has a gold nugget.
Good news: you don’t have to listen to family because every – and I mean every – person you meet has a fascinating, lesson-rich, gold nugget to share, something they’ve experienced or lived through that no one else has in quite the same way. (I would like to point out that, by definition, this includes your parents and grandparents, and then I’ll try to be quiet about that.)
Though this has evolved into one of my favorite fact-finding methods for cherry-picking the easy lessons of life, I don’t do it only because I’m pain aversive. I also try to practice learning from everyone because it makes life just plain old richer.
Try mining the gold nuggets while listening to others for just a day or two. See if life doesn’t seem a whole lot more interesting and a lot less painful when you practice learning from everyone. Then tell me what you learned: leave a comment.
* Yes, I know I say to be wary of anyone beating you over the head with everyone in the post Everyone does it. It is truly an awfully laaaaarrrge word. In this case, in my humble opinion, it’s warranted. Every one of us has a unique set of experiences, and that means our life story and what we’ve learned from it are also unique – and worth hearing.
© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett
[Gold nugget photo credit: R.Weller/Cochise College]