January 23, 2010

Success: Are You a Good Student of Life?

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


I got on the bus at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and settled in for the hour-long ride. After a bumpy flight I was relieved to be the only person on the bus… until just before it left. A guy about my age who most certainly had seen better days got in. He was loud, dirty, and smelled of alcohol—and it sounded like he had a cold. He sat right next to me.


We talked—actually it was more of a monologue. He spoke well. He had poetry memorized. Although this was years ago, I still remember one thing he said to me.  “Jim, you gotta let success happen.”


He was right. Success is all around us, every day, each moment, but not always obvious. Success, like beauty, is always near, but not always visible.


What is success? Success is to be your true self. It’s being the person you were meant to be, connected to the same energy and power that turns acorns into oak trees and caterpillars into butterflies.


It takes courage, however, to be yourself in a world trying to make you like everyone else.


With courage comes a connection to beauty and truth and… teachers. Everyone has something to teach us, as Emerson said. We often disconnect ourselves from success, however, by getting caught up in judging people and circumstances as good or bad, when we don’t have all the information. We miss out on the wisdom presented to us when we do.


Teachers are everywhere but human nature easily mistakes them for interruptions.


Malcolm Gladwell is a best-selling author (Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw) who writes observations about the world and how it works. In order to be a good writer, Gladwell pays close attention to his life. He tries to see what there is to learn from each person he meets, and the good that person has to share.  He explains:


“One of my rules of conduct is, I think everyone is interesting. When people talk about what they know well and do well, they are almost always interesting. If they are not, it’s generally your fault, because you’re not asking the right questions, or you haven’t made them comfortable.  Once I learned that lesson, my journalism became a lot easier.”


As you watch the following video, you’ll see what happens when a photographer/blogger in Atlanta (Zack Arias) gets an unexpected knock on his front door, and asks the right questions. What Zack encountered was far more than a door-to-door salesman. He found a teacher.




* It’s so easy to miss great opportunities for learning and growth without a mind open to possibilities.


* Remember that everyone is superior, and interesting, in some way. You just have to ask the right questions.


What can you do?


Be grateful. A grateful heart is more present, more open to possibilities, and more creative.


Don’t judge people or circumstances. Look, listen, and learn.


When you’re struggling with something, know that the solution is often in your midst if you broaden your vision.


Who are the teachers in disguise in your life today?