Hopefully It’s Never Too Late To Learn

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Years ago I decided to buck a trend and to be a nice guy who didn’t finish last.

Yes, nice guys can finish first. At least that’s the motto I have tried to live by in recent years, but it’s not always easy when you see the bad folks forging ahead. I always try to remember that those folks had to live with themselves.

I have definitely fallen into living the adage of too soon old and too late smart, but the best you can do is try and get a little bit better every day.

An interesting article from Inc.com by Kevin Daum caught my eye the other day: “5 Things That Really Smart People Do.” And after I read it, I wish somebody had given this list to me as a young adult, not that I wouldn’t have dismissed the advice out of hand back then, but these were some real kernels of truth that everyone needs to know to get along in business and in life.

For those of us who have suffered with trying to be the smartest person in the room, this article was a humbling experience because it shone light on our vanities and frailties. It said as we fill our heads full of facts, thoughts and ideas the less room we have or new ideas and our minds shut down.

The first bit of advice was to “Quiet Your Inner Voice.” You know that little voice inside your head when you’re in a meeting or at a presentation. The one that sparks the overwhelming urge to contradict the speaker just so you can be heard. Their advice was to tell that little voice in your head to pipe down and learn something from the speaker.

The second piece of advice was to “Argue With Yourself.” Essentially, it means that if you can’t quiet that inner voice at least you can stop yourself and take the time to suggest why the speaker is right and your point of view is not. This, they suggest, will open you up to new ideas or help you codify your supporting arguments.

Next they suggest acting like you are a curious person. Engage the speaker with concentrated listening. They suggest writing down at least three pertinent questions that you can either ask or research online later. This will help you stay engaged and store the information more easily in your head.

These last two, boy if I’d only heard this voice sooner in life.

“Find the Kernel of Truth.” Even if you don’t buy into the entire concept, mine the lecture or conversation for the nuggets of truth or knowledge that will serve your needs down the road.

Lastly, “Focus on the Message, not the Messenger.” Yikes! How many times have you sat in a meeting and thought to yourself (or even whispered to a friend), “Oh, that’s so-and-so, they haven’t had an original idea in years?”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve stumbled down that path, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog. While it’s easy to turn off the familiar and dismiss the ideas of a peer who drones on and on, the important thing is to listen for new concepts or updated ways of looking at existing ideas.

The article suggests that you put the person aside and listen to the message. That can be really hard to do, but it’s an important quality in a lifelong learner.

Well, like I said, I may be too soon old and too late smart, but I’m going to kick the tires on these ideas and give them a try.

Thanks Inc.com, I think we’re all going to be a little smarter because of this.

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