In his book, My Father’s Business, Cal Turner, Jr., the long-time CEO of Dollar General and the son of the company’s Founder talks about how his grandfather was one of the smartest people he ever knew. What makes this particularly interesting is that his grandfather dropped out of elementary school to help run the family farm after his dad died in a freak wrestling accident. (I’m assuming it wasn’t cauliflower ear.)
Turner goes on to say that his grandfather’s lack of formal education offered a significant advantage.
It says a great deal about Luther Turner that he was able to turn
his third-grade education into a plus. He was convinced that everyone he met was smarter than he, and that he needed to learn some thing from each of them. He became a first-rate observer, a great listener, and a dedicated student of life. What he practiced was more than empathy. It involved valuing the other person and his or her information, insight, and perspective.
- Cal Turner, Jr.
To be clear, I’m not encouraging you to drop out of school after 3rd grade. (Very few of my readers are in the 3rd grade and under demographic.) But it’s important to recognize the danger of assuming you are the smartest person in the room. We all have blind spots which limit us. But if you remain open to the ideas of others you have the potential to become as smart as everyone you have encountered combined.
Everyone you interact with has amassed their own unique combination of knowledge and experience. Which means they have insights and perspectives you don’t have. Listen to them. Learn from them. Add their lessons to your own. The only limit to how much you can learn in life is your own curiosity and receptivity.
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