To Become Wise, You Must Learn From Others

To Become Wise, You Must Learn From Others

Many people have an idea that, to become wise, or to “level up your life,” you must isolate yourself, turn inward, and reject the company of others.

They say that everything you need is already in you, and that you can only discover it by meditating, visualizing your goals, and hustling in silence.

I think that’s bullshit.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a benefit to reducing how much content you consume, shrinking your social circle, and spending time in solitude to seek clarity and engage in deep work.

However, if you isolate yourself too much, you run the risk of becoming closed-minded, and closed-mindedness is a guaranteed path to foolishness. The problem arises when you convince yourself that you have nothing left to learn, and thus stop engaging with new ideas.

In this way, it’s possible to isolate yourself even when you’re surrounded by wise people and infinite sources of information, simply because you refuse to learn from any source you perceive as less intelligent, or perhaps less spiritually awakened, than yourself.

Remember this: a wise man can learn anything, and a fool already knows everything.

Quote Of The Week

“The wisdom of just one person is like a tree stuck into the ground with no roots.” –– Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Heraclitus: The Philosopher Who Died Covered In Poop

Heraclitus was a pretty smart dude. He was a Presocratic Greek philosopher from Ephesus who laid the foundation for several major philosophical concepts that guide modern thought, including the permanence of change (entropy) and the unity of opposites (polarity).

Heraclitus is quoted many times by later philosophers, sometimes with respect, and sometimes with derision. Still, there’s no doubt about one thing: his writings, now lost to history, had a major impact on the thoughts of early philosophers, including Socrates and even Marcus Aurelius.

In fact, Heraclitus’s thoughts on change even inspired my original song The River: specifically, his quote, “No man steps in the same river twice.”

Perhaps his most notable contribution to philosophy, however, is the concept of the logos, AKA the underlying logic and rationality of the organized Universe which guides everything in existence according to fundamental laws of time, physics, etc.

Now, Heraclitus had at least one major personality flaw: he knew he was smart, and he didn’t like other people.

Heraclitus believed he was one of the smartest people in the world, and that no one could teach him anything that he couldn’t discover on his own. He rejected conventional wisdom and objected to others’ advice, even when it came to things he didn’t totally understand, like illness.

Late in his life, likely in his late fifties, he developed a condition called “dropsy,” known today as edema, which caused large amounts of fluid to build up in the soft tissues beneath his skin.

He consulted doctors about his problem, but he didn’t like their suggestions, and so he took matters into his own hands.

He had a theory that, if he subjected himself to enough heat, he could evaporate the fluid out of his body and cure himself. To achieve this, he buried himself in manure and waited for the heat of the decaying poop to dry out his body.

It didn’t work.

Thus, one of the smartest people in history died alone and covered in shit, completely by choice, because he thought it would make him healthy.

Don’t Believe Your Own Shit

Now, we shouldn’t be too hard on Heraclitus: you and I fall for our own shit all the time (at least I know I do). It’s part of being human: we all have a tendency to concoct and believe foolish ideas.

  • We take foolish risks, like gambling against tremendous odds, or performing extravagant stunts for the sake of attention (or to prove we’re tough)
  • We hesitate to take good risks, like asking out someone we like, applying for a stretch job, or investing responsibly, because we’re afraid of the feeling of failure
  • We bend over backward to please fickle employers who have a proven track record of laying off thousands of dedicated employees whenever the economy gets shaky –– which is when the employees need their jobs the most
  • We convince ourselves we aren’t skilled, passionate, or ambitious enough to turn a creative endeavor into a scalable source of income, all because we’ve lost our childlike confidence and wonder (remember when you wanted to be an astronaut?)

So, how can we avoid falling for our own shit?

The key is to expose ourselves to the ideas of others and to approach these new ideas with open-minded curiosity.

This one simple sentence can change your life, and even help you avoid making some serious blunders:

“It’s possible.”

Of course, you don’t want the opinions of others to overwhelm your own knowledge, so it’s important to tread cautiously. However, by simply admitting that you might not know everything you place yourself in a position to learn new things and change your life for the better.

So, how can you sharpen your mental sword?

  1. Unfollow everyone on social media, then only follow accounts that help you expand your worldview, ideally, both people you agree with and disagree with and whom you can respect due to their integrity and reliability
  2. As much as possible, replace your short-form content with long-form content. Read books: philosophy, psychology, self-help, mysticism, religious texts, etc. Listen to conversational podcasts where people talk to and learn from each other.
  3. Have deep conversations with people who can challenge your beliefs and teach you new things. Most importantly, listen more than you speak. It’s impossible to learn if you’re always trying to make people see stuff from your point of view.

Solitude and introspection are good, especially when you are trying to learn from your mistakes.

However, if you spend too much time inside your own thoughts, you run the risk of convincing yourself that you have little to learn from the people around you.

Here’s my challenge to you: for one week, set a goal to learn something from someone that will change an opinion you’ve held for a long time.

Either you’ll discover you were wrong, or you’ll have a better understanding of just how right you were.

Either way, you’ll grow.

Question Of The Week

When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was the result? Do you wish you had never learned the information that changed your mind, or are you glad you see things differently now?

Community Announcement

In the last two weeks, I've published two interview podcasts, one with my friend Will, a philosophy student in the UK, and a second with my friend David Chong, a practicing Taoist and student of eastern spirituality.

Affiliate Announcements

The Curiosity Chronicle is a personal growth newsletter authored by entrepreneur and investor Sahil Bloom that has helped me change how I think about life, relationships, and business. If you are an independent thinker with a passion for business, I recommend you check it out.

In November, I started using Hypefury to grow my Twitter account and the results have been absolutely explosive. My favorite feature is the Engagement Builder, which I've been using to interact with huge accounts and get followers without even logging into Twitter. If you want to save time + grow on Twitter, try Hypefury today.

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Hey, I'm Chris

I'm a writer, podcaster, musician, and artist creating content to help you live on purpose and die without regrets.

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