American culture worships the individual. We have all heard stories–even when we were children–about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” and the importance of hard work, patience, and perseverance.
I remember being young. And in my privileged middle class suburban community, I recall being told by parents and teachers alike that I could grow up to do whatever I wanted.
This younger version of myself was excited because I wanted nothing more than to play basketball in the NBA. Unfortunately, that dream ended quickly, and I soon discovered that–regardless of my desire to jump like MJ–my talents resided elsewhere.
I my adolescence, I found a new dream–to become a clinical psychologist.
Working for a psychologist with his own practice, along with discovering an introductory psychology class, combined to lay a new blueprint for what I wanted to do and who I wanted to become.
During my time working for this psychologist, I was humbled to discover how much I didn’t know. I was constantly reminded of my youth and inexperience, but was also rewarded for my endless curiosity.
It was my boundless wonder that allowed my mentor to share with me secrets of the trade, stories about business and ethical dilemmas, and encourage me to continue this pursuit.
And now that I’m closing in on this dream of becoming a clinical psychologist, I’m reflecting on how lucky and fortunate I am.
I’ve had many mentors over the years–each with their own unique imprint on the person and professional I want to become. And as I think back to each relationship the most consistent aspect of my response to them was curiosity.
I think that the smartest thing people can do is to acknowledge what they don’t know and maintain a sense of curiosity for everything that they encounter. The result is a quiet confidence, unbridled humility, and passion for continued growth.
And those qualities attract individuals who enjoy passing the torch of knowledge and success. It creates an opportunity for a deeper, mutually beneficial relationship.
Mentors want mentees. They value their journey, have mastered the terrain, and want to give back to others looking to navigate the territory.
Unfortunately, these incredible relationships don’t happen often. Because of the unique mix of search engines and our individualistic values, many people are convinced that they know the best route to success and happiness. They are convinced that they know the best, most efficient way to achieve their goals.
They conform what they learn to their own lives–taking bits and pieces of each thing and combining it into their worldview. But this hodgepodge of ideas prevents individuals from immersing themselves in the process of learning.
The deepest learning and the fastest growth occurs by going outside of one’s comfort zone and learning from someone else. It involves acknowledging that someone else has greater authority and wisdom than you do. And that requires humility that most people can’t stomach.
Most people prefer to maintain the status quo. The constant state of mediocrity. The way of ignorance.
Assuming that you know better than other people–other experts–makes you feel more important and entitled than you should be. It discounts the knowledge and wisdom that others have gained through their experiences. And it prevents you from accelerating your growth.
It has been said that since the beginning of humankind, the ancient walk-about way of attaining enlightenment traditionally occurred only through submission to a guru. It is through your devotional response to that one that you may receive the guru’s grace–his spiritual transmission.
Old folklore said that only the horse knows the way, therefore, one must grab onto the tail and be led to the destination.
That type of trust and surrender–knowing that you do not know all of the answers and proceeding with endless curiosity–is what allows individuals to receive the and wisdom of their mentor.
You must trust yourself. Trust your mentor. And, through acknowledging what you don’t know, maintain an open sense of curiosity and respect to the individual that has wisdom to share.
Remember when I said that I wanted to become a clinical psychologist? If I would have approached each mentor with the assumption that I knew best, they wouldn’t have taught me and I would have missed out on the opportunity to learn.
I may have more confidence in myself, but that would only be superficial confidence. Not the type of confidence built on experience and wisdom.
In a world full of superficial confidence and materialistic values, stand out. Choose to embrace what you don’t know and maintain a sense of curiosity about everything you encounter.
Learn from every person, situation, and event you possibly can.
That mindset will take you further down the road of success than walking the entire journey on your own.