One of the strongest held beliefs I have is that we are all equal, I can learn something from everyone and I will always be learning. The following story is how this belief got so ingrained in me and no matter what happens, I am always learning from everyone no matter how much it can make my brain hurt sometimes. 😃
I was 16, I was going through yet another set of end of year school exams that I didn’t think were important because I really didn’t care much about school. We were having dinner with a family friend who was also a mentor of mine and he heard me bragging about how little I was doing in preparation for the exams because they didn’t matter. I was also saying it didn’t matter because I’d get about 70% without doing much anyway because they were stupid. I think I saw the steam coming out of his ears but when he spoke he was very calm for the first two minutes… he asked why I wouldn’t give my best at every exam, because if I got 70% without studying what could I achieve if I did some work. When I argued my same points back about not caring and that school didn’t matter he started getting more pissed off. He said you should treat everything you do like it matters, he said I should care about everything I do and give my best to everything I try.
This erupted into an argument about what matters and doesn’t matter in life, which boiled down to, in his eyes and words, me being a lazy spoilt brat who he knew could achieve great things if I got my thumb out my ass and actually did something with the amazing opportunities I had given to me. At this point I was crying, my parents didn’t know what to do, they thought he was probably right but shouldn’t make me cry. It was a bit of a mess. Until he calmed right back down wiped my tears away, looked me straight in the eyes and said “Shanti, do you know the difference between a 16-year-old and a 60-year-old? At 16 you don’t know what you don’t know. At 60 you know what you don’t know.”
I would love to be able to tell you that this made me feel a great lightning bolt and I changed everything in my life overnight, but I can’t say that. I can say that it made me think, I stopped crying and said sorry for being a “know it all young” person. I also studied a little more for those exams and did get about 80%. The words “At 16 you don’t know what you don’t know. At 60 you know what you don’t know” were now stuck in my brain for life. In my 16-year-old brain, they meant “I don’t know anything yet, I have a lot to learn, stop acting like a spoilt brat.”
My 28-year-old brain has now adapted this over time and included my belief that everyone is equal. No person is less than or more than. I am not superior or inferior to anyone. Sure to some extent I have to respect titles and authority but individually we are all the same.
My attitude of “equality” and “I don’t know anything yet, I have a lot to learn” has quickly become “I can learn something from everyone.” This is how I approach life now, and it serves me well for many reasons.
- I learn and absorb a lot from people all the time
- I think this is one of the reasons I have been able to have a wide range of experiences
- I always get excited when I meet new people and people from new (to me) cultures because I get to learn about a new person and another culture.
- It allows me to approach life with an expansive mentality because there is no limit on learning, I will always be able to learn, grow and change.
Thank you, Viva… for being there when I was ready to accept and receive this amazing life rule.