In order to get where you want to go, you’re going to have to grow as a person.
In order to grow you have a lot to learn, and learning is tricky once you’re out of school, because you don’t know what you don’t know.
In fact, you almost certainly assume that you know more than you do.
This famously happens to people in their early 20’s: they become dogmatic. Their religion is right, because they are in it. Their political stance is the only rational one and everyone else has a few loose screws. Their college football team is the only one worth supporting, even though the tight end is being investigated for murder, the quarterback raped a woman, and half the team has been arrested on various other charges.
It’s not just those that are entering adulthood though, arrogance seems to be something that is built in to the human condition.
People don’t listen, they wait for their turn to talk.
People don’t consider the other side, they stay in their own bubble.
I’m not against taking a stand on something, but I can’t help but notice that the more you look down on those who disagree with you, the less likely you are to learn from them.
And you have plenty to learn from them, because everyone knows something you don’t.
And I mean everyone.
- The homeless guy you ignore knows something you don’t.
- Your political enemies know something you don’t.
- Those people you know who got brainwashed by that cult know things that you don’t.
- That seemingly incompetent intern knows things that you don’t.
It’s perfectly possible for people to know things that you don’t even when they are wrong about a great many things.
I read an article not too long ago about a guy who believed the Earth was flat. Just to be clear before we go on, he’s wrong about that. But that doesn’t mean that he’s not highly intelligent. This guy built a rocket to try to launch himself high enough to prove that the Earth was flat. His plans didn’t work, but the rocket did. This guy built a freaking rocket. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know enough to do that. I could learn a lot from a guy who can build a rocket.
But I’m going to go a step farther. That guy clearly demonstrated his competence in one arena, you might be thinking, but on the issue of the shape of the Earth, he’s not worth listening to.
That may or may not be true, but I’m going to throw a wild guess out there: if you got a chance to talk with this guy about the shape of the Earth, he would surprise you. You would learn something. You probably wouldn’t walk away convinced of his position, but you’d probably walk away knowing something that you didn’t before.
Most people are intelligent and believe what they believe for a reason. Even if someone is on the wrong end of a debate, there’s still an overwhelming chance that they know something about the debate that you do not.
Atheists have plenty that they can learn from Christians, and Christians have plenty that they can learn from Atheists.
This doesn’t mean that we have to pretend that our differences don’t matter and that we all believe the same thing, it just means that none of us is 100% right about everything and our goal at all times should be to become less wrong.
Many people have this backwards. They’re afraid of admitting when they are wrong. They should be afraid of never admitting that they are wrong.
Admitting that you are wrong is a sign of growth; failing to ever admit that you were wrong is a sign of either blindness or arrogance.
As Alain De Botton said:
“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.”
There’s room around you to learn from everyone you meet, even those you strongly disagree with.
Have the humility to listen and you will keep growing.
This is the nineteenth in a series based on my article 30 Lessons About Life You Should Learn Before Turning 30. Shoutout to Dr. Christine Bradstreet 🌴 for the idea to turn the post into an in-depth series.