There’s some things we never fail to mention when talking about success: hard work, working intelligently, discipline, and consistency. You’ll hear those things brought up in every conversation you’ll ever have about success. All of them are vitally important in building the life of your dreams. No doubt about it.
Something that deserves far more attention than it’s given, however, is humility. It’s an almost universal trait among those who’ve both gotten to the top and maintained their position for any significant period of time. Let’s look at two examples.
There was a girl named Silvia in my Spanish class last year. She was a foreign exchange student from Italy that already knew five languages. She was the best nonnative Spanish speaker in the class. Why? Because she recognized she had more to learn and was always asking detailed questions.
The rest of us were satisfied when we spoke mostly correct sentences that a native speaker could’ve understood. “¿You get the gist of what we’re saying right señorita? ¿Our conversation was good enough for an A right?
Silvia was playing on a different level though. She was looking to be understood as if she was a native speaker. She was hungry, we weren’t. She focused on the nuances of language such as subject-verb agreement, subjunctive vs. indicative, and changing her accent while the rest of us were content to be speaking somewhat understandable Spanish with heavy American accents.
There was once a group of Brazilian businessmen who sent letters to the heads of the top 10 U.S. retailers asking to come visit and learn how they did business. Most of the U.S. companies ignored the letters, and the few that had acknowledged the Brazilians said, “No.” However, Sam Walton said, “Yes.”
Sam Walton invited them to his hometown in Bentonville, Arkansas and when the Brazilian businessmen came he ended up asking them far more questions then they’d asked him. It turns out that despite being far more successful Walton had invited these men to the U.S. because he wanted to see what he could learn from them!
The story gets even better. Sam Walton later went to Brazil to visit the businessmen and got arrested in the process. The cops thought he was a danger to society because they’d found him on his hands and knees measuring the amount of space a store had left in-between the aisles.
Even though he was the richest man in the United States, Sam Walton was humble enough to get on his hands and knees measuring things because he understood that there was always more he could learn. If Sam Walton, the founder of the largest retailer in the world was willing to go to that length to learn from others then what’s your excuse?
Don’t be so ignorant as to think that you have specialized knowledge in all aspects of the world unparalleled to the knowledge of the other 7 billion people on this planet. Even the smartest people in the world recognize that this world is simply too vast for them to have a complete understanding of it.
There’s a reason both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet both said that if they could choose any super power they’d choose the ability to read faster than anyone else in the world. They see that there’s still so much they have to learn, and if that’s the case for them it definitely holds true for me and you as well.
So get to it. Find some mentors, find some books, and get learning.
Pick up Sam Walton’s autobiography here. It’s a great book with tons of key insights.
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