“I have no friends or enemies; only teachers.” – Ancient Proverb
We know everything.
We know what the answer to that problem is, we know the shortest way to our destination, we know the best advice to give a friend, we know what’s best for our loved ones. We don’t need to ask questions, we don’t need any help, because we’re just fine on our own.
Sometimes I get a little defensive when someone knows something that I don’t, or knows a better way of doing something than my way. I close myself off. I disregard everyone else’s opinions and place mine on a pedestal that I feel it should be on, encased in a glass enclosure, showcased to the world.
But then I’m reminded of this quote. And I climb to the top of the pedestal and bring my opinion back down to Earth.
Maybe you haven’t been introduced to this world we live in, so before we make any first impressions, let me give you a little insight: it’s a competitive one. It’s an entitled one. It’s a you’re-wrong-and-I’m-right-because-I-said-so one. Yeah, doesn’t sound so friendly. But this is exactly why I’m introducing you: because you can change it.
What I get out of the quote is this: whether the people we interact with throughout our days are our biggest fans or biggest critics, we can learn something from them. From everybody. And we do this by employing an open mindset. By being open to others’ opinions.
We’re not going to like every opinion that comes our way. If someone walks up to me and tells me that my hair’s too curly (it does get pretty curly) and says it looks stupid, I’m not going to hug them and thank them for the compliment. But I will learn something: that that’s their opinion, and that they’re entitled to it. I can’t do anything to change it. All I can do is tell them “OK.” Because I didn’t style my hair a certain way for them. I didn’t do it for anyone. I did it for myself. I don’t live for a random stranger on the street. I live for me.
Now that was an example of someone’s opinion that just so happened to double as an insult. But we’re OK with insults, because they’re only people’s opinions, and they don’t have to devastate us, right? Right. Now how about suggestions?
You own a restaurant, and recently, you’ve been having a hard time drawing in customers. Revenue’s starting to drop and fewer and fewer customers seem to walk through your doors every day, but you’ve got a great social media and advertising strategy that you’ve been using for years, and you know it works. “It’s just a phase” you tell yourself.
One of your close friends notices the drop and wants to help. They suggest that you change up your advertising strategies and target a different group of potential customers. But you’re having none of it! This is something that you’ve been doing for years. And besides, it’s not like they own their own restaurant. What do they know?
But suddenly, you stop, you hop on WordPress, you click on over to Jake’sJournal, and you remember the quote. You remember that being a little more open-minded never hurt anyone, that in fact it usually helps people. So you reach out to your friend, listen to what they have to say this time, and make a few changes to your tried-and-true plan. And just like that, a steady stream of customers has returned. You realize that in this instance, you weren’t right, that you needed someone’s help to solve a problem. You learned that your friend is also a great teacher.
So maybe now you’ll start to look at the world differently: as a giant classroom, where you’re the only student and everyone else is your teacher. We can learn something from every person that enters our lives, whether for a few brief seconds or a lifetime. Just think: if everyone started acting like students of the world, think how much we would learn.
I’d love to hear what you think of the quote, and if you’ve got one of your own you’d like to share, leave a comment and let me know!