One of the major principles that I try to embed into these articles is that every day is a never-to-be-had-again opportunity to improve, progress, learn, and achieve. Learning is the single most powerful tool to facilitate your progress in any endeavor. One thing that I have been experiencing lately is that I did not actually know what I wanted to know. I mean that I knew what my goals were, but once I became more knowledgeable, my goals became clearer and my progress toward them became more efficient. It may seem like common sense, but this awareness has had a significant impact as of late. Here are some of the things that have helped me clarify what it is I want to know.
- Listening to the people around me more: I’ve started putting myself around good people and openly listening to them—without the rebutting and challenging that I’m used to doing. I’m learning to disengage from the power dance that conversations can become, where I do no more than bide my time until it’s my polite turn to talk again. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of always asserting myself and my opinion, but it deprives me of the opportunity to learn the lessons I need. And, believe me, it is hard for me to listen. But when I push myself to listen openly, I definitely find that I experience a higher level of communication.
- Listening to myself less: In the 7 Habits Book, Stephen Covey talks about beginning with the end in mind. This tactic is very effective in many situations. However, not all tools are appropriate for all tasks—just as a drill will not cut wood, there are some situations where it is counterproductive to begin with the end in mind. When in conversation with someone, even if he or she is not a mentor, just let go and absorb the knowledge and energy being offered. Try to remember that everyone has something to teach you because everyone has had different experiences than you have. In the worst case, you learn something trivial; in the best case, you find inspiration and a new perspective to pursue new knowledge.
- Listening to podcasts: Yes, I am old, but I am addicted to podcasts. A lot of the really good podcasts refer to subjects outside of the cast. Podcasts have been the source of references for most of the new books that I have read. Tim Ferriss is amazing at just bringing a massive variety of concepts and resources into one podcast. I kind of hate how amazing he is. I do not always agree with him (and, really, who gives a shit whether I agree or not?), but I always learn from him.
Going through each day carries with it a simple guarantee: You are going to learn. You will see things and hear things, and—chances are—some of those things will be things that you have never seen or heard before. Poof! You have just learned. Whether that knowledge is useful or will impact your life bears little importance. You have still learned it. Some of those things will have impact on your life. Many things that you learn are intentionally presented to you—a consumer—through targeted marketing, to influence your decisions about where you shop, what you buy, and what you know. Marketing is simply the strategy that businesses use in order to position what they want you to hear in proximity to the things that you know you want to know, or see, or hear. By predicting what you want to know, they can position information intended to influence you alongside that which you want to know. My point is that it may behoove (yes, behoove!!) you to put more effort into deciding what it is that you are learning and letting influence you than others do.
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, has an amazing line in it that has served as focus for my meditations for a while now. Although the entire book is incredible and full of great insights, I especially appreciate the following interaction—The Alchemist is speaking to a monk, who implies that he is being too generous, to which The Alchemist replies, “Don’t say that again. Life might be listening, and give you less the next time.” Always appreciate exactly what Life serves you by making the most of it.
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