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I was a terrible student in high school.
My English teacher repeatedly yelled at me for writing short stories during class when I was supposed to be copying down grammar rules from the whiteboard.
“Matt… Stop writing stupid stories. It’s a waste of time. Quit while you’re ahead.” Obviously, I didn’t quit. I kept going. And over several years, I managed to create a full-time income doing something I love.
How? I learned from the mistakes and successes of professional writers. And as a result, I made a lot more progress in my writing career than I ever thought possible.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the same logic applies to my relationships, mental health, and every other aspect of my life. By learning from other people, I could put one foot in front of the other and make consistent progress towards the life I desire.
My friend, it doesn’t matter if you were a terrible student in high school or college. If you become a student of life, everyone can be your teacher. So without further delay, here are a few things you can do to educate yourself:
Become A Student Of Other People’s Emotions.
One of my closest friends has visited 52 different countries around the world. He can speak four languages and always makes an effort to immerse himself in the culture of wherever location he’s in. We frequently joke that he’s a chameleon because of his unique ability to connect with people in any environment.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned a lot from him. But out of everything he’s taught me, there’s one lesson that will stay in the back of my mind until the day I die. He said:
“The world is much bigger than your hometown. We all have different backgrounds, religions, political beliefs, and much more. In essence, every single person is a product of their environment. But instead of focusing on the things we don’t have in common, it’s better to focus on what we do.”
At the end of the day, we’re all human. We’re all trying to make the best of whatever circumstances we’ve been given. Become a student of other people’s emotions. Put yourself in their shoes to understand what might be going through their mind.
Empathy is not just important… it’s necessary. Sure, we might not be able to agree with everyone on everything. But if we can understand why someone thinks a certain way, it’s much easier to find common ground and a way forward.
Learn From A Conversation With Your Grandparents.
If they’re not around, find an elderly person to have a conversation with. More often than not, they’ll have a few regrets and nuggets of useful advice that they want to pass down.
I’ll give you an example. I met an 82-year-old woman while waiting in the departure lounge of Singapore airport. We had recently been kicked out of Australia due to the border closures and were waiting for our flight back to the United Kingdom. She looked at me and asked how old I was.
“21”, I said with a smile. She paused, look me in the eye, and said something I’ll never forget. “Please don’t be like my younger self. Looking back, I regret what I did.” At first, I thought she was talking about committing a crime or doing something foolish. But after a few moments, she continued.
“Life is unpredictable. You don’t know what will happen in the future. The only thing that’s guaranteed is the present moment. Enjoy it.” It took me a while to process what she said. But after thinking about it, I realized that she was totally right.
Anxiety is often a fear of the unknown. It’s the uncertainty of what may or may not happen in the future. We spend a lot of time overthinking how to act in a specific situation. But when it eventually comes around, everything is fine. More often than not, there was nothing to worry about.
If worrying won’t change the outcome of a future event, what’s the point? There is none. Instead, a much better strategy is to smile and appreciate the beauty of the present moment. Oprah Winfrey said it best:
“Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.”
If You Can Become A Student Of Life, You Shall Eventually Become A Teacher.
In essence, you’ll put what you learn into practice. You’ll live each day in a way that brings you a sense of genuine meaning and fulfillment. You’ll wake up with a smile on your face, knowing that you’re doing whatever it takes to fulfill your potential.
If that’s not a beautiful way to live, I don’t know what is. Because when you practice what you preach, you’ll inevitably inspire other people to learn from you and everyone else they admire. Thus, becoming a student of life creates an endless cycle of knowledge passed down from one generation to the next.
I’m going to leave you with a quote from the Greek philosopher, Epictetus, who perfectly sums up what I’m saying:
“First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.”