I hear a lot of advice, sermons and the like. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has suggestions.
Some folks taste a little bit of success, and develop ‘frog-in-a-well’ syndrome. They grow the delusion of grandiosity – that they know it all. They live in their own little fiefdom without much exposure or knowledge of bigger and better ways out there. They deprive themselves of mental enrichment, and would like others to follow suit.
Then there are those who have suddenly discovered a forgiving platform that gives the opportunity to publish and broadcast their thoughts – social media. It’s a great tool when the information is good and useful, it’s a harmful tool when the broadcaster’s thoughts are dumb and bull.
For a learner, these are tough times. The moot question is….who should you learn from?
Here’s what I am trying to do:
- Proven vs untested:
Learn from those who have earned the stripes, and more importantly, practice what they preach. Rather than following mere theory, absorb from those who have some results to show for their efforts.
When in doubt, it is always a good idea to learn from and model those who have practiced their own advice in real life. As Tony Robbins says, true leaders are known not by how they move their lips, but by how they move their feet.
- More successful vs less successful:
Choose your area of study. Then find one who is successful in that area. Successful in meaningful ways. With real long-term impact. Then model him/ her.
But don’t fall victim to the ‘transference’ principle. What’s that? When we are impressed with someone for their accomplishment/ success in one area, we automatically assume that they are successful in other areas as well.
For example, seeking parenting advice from a successful entrepreneur. Just because he built a successful business doesn’t mean he is a good parent (although its also true that many successful people are so focused on improving themselves that they achieve results in multiple areas).
- Timeless advice:
Learn from the great books, the great philosophers, eternal philosophies. Short-term experiments conducted on mice and college students can give misleading results. But fundamentals that have stood the test of time seldom go wrong. When in doubt, drink deeply from ageless principles.
- Meta-experience over solo-experience:
We often make the mistake of attributing disproportionate importance to a single incident/ opinion (from ourselves or from someone who influences us) and generalizing it. Instead, form your own opinion and insights based on several different experiences, whether its your own or someone else’s. What’s more beneficial is to look for patterns that emerge out of myriad seemingly unrelated experiences and opinions.
- From your inner wisdom:
Every event and experience is stored in our unconscious database along with some attached meaning and judgment. When faced with a situation, it is immediately evaluated through the lens of this vast database. The result is returned to us in the form of a feeling, which we commonly term as a gut instinct.
And then there is that little-known and often discounted aspect known as higher intelligence. Beyond the senses and the unconscious….our spiritual connect with the fabric of the cosmos. The more we can hone our gut instincts and spiritual connect, the better is our ability to learn better quality lessons.
Personally, I have regretted every single time I have ignored my gut feeling, or spiritual choice or that tiny red flag within. Every choice wherein I relied more on my logic instead of instinct was proven wrong (or sub-optimal at best) in the long run.
So much for the rational brain.
I have come to realize that the greater ability is not in having perfect answers, but asking better questions; not in believing faithfully but in seeking ardently, not in holding firm positions but critiquing established “facts & ways”.
Therein lies the key to solid learning. I write not as an authority on anything, but as an enthusiast of many things.