“It was the best of people,
it was the worst of people.”
This take on the classic first 12 words of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens describes in a nutshell what others can show us about who we want to be. I always find it fascinating how you can learn as much about who you want to be as you can about who you don’t want to be through both direct and indirect interactions with others.
The fact is, we can always learn something from others. The Bible has a whole lot to say about the wise and fools. These are some of my favorite verses – especially the ones that come out of Proverbs. Here is but a sampling:
Honor is no more associated with fools than snow
with summer and rain with harvest. – Proverbs 26:1
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. – Proverbs 12:15
Fools have no interest in understanding;
they only want to air their own opinions. – Proverbs 18:2
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. – Proverbs 17:28
And one of my favorites:
As a dog returns to vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. – Proverbs 26:11
In the summer of 2000, I asked to gain the skill set of my company’s craft by the learning-by-doing method. Southwestern Advantage is like the Navy SEALs of sales. As the company’s representative to the outside world, I felt I needed to gain the EXPERIENCE we offer college students in running a business in order to have credibility with both internal and external audiences. What I came out of it with was so much more valuable.
After spending several weeks meeting with families through cold-calls and referrals, I was astounded at how much I learned from those I met. I’m not kidding when I say this… but I learned more about myself and human nature than I did in five years of college. It was an experiential education – meaning this was stuff you would never learn in a classroom. I learned through experiencing it first-hand.
One of the many things I saw was the best in people and the worst in people. This was very important for me. By interacting with others directly and observing them indirectly, I was able to discern the person I wanted to become. Sometimes it was positive, as I saw something great in someone: their attitude, how they interacted with their kids or spouse, the cleanliness of their home or appearance, their tone of voice and choice of language, or simply a smile. But on the other hand, I would experience the absolute worst in people: how they talked to and treated others, their deplorable living conditions, addictions, unrestrained anger or resentment, broken relationships, and the results of a life of regrets and poor choices.
This is not an indictment of those I interacted with necessarily, but it is an indictment of human nature. No matter the time or place, we can learn from others often more than we can have them learn from us. And… the future you appreciates the past you soaking it all in.