Who Do You Learn From?

SomThe Road to Charactere people seem to think that they don’t need to learn from anyone. They will pound out their own direction, chart their own course. They can do it on their own – they think…

But, for most of us, we need to learn from others. And even if we chart a portion of our own course, we rely on those who went before.

Last Sunday, Fareed Zakaria had part two of his interview with David Brooks, prompted by Mr. Brooks’ new book, The Road to Character. Here’s a critical and enlightening portion of that interview (from the transcript). I’ve bolded a key portion:

You grow up in an ecology and you inherit a certain tradition, a certain gift from the dead of how to be good. And so, there are a whole bunch of things you can believe in. There’s a Greek tradition, a classical one, which emphasizes honor and courage and glory. There’s a Jewish one, that emphasizes obedience to law. There’s a Christian one on salvation and grace. There’s a scientific one, rational thought and thinking your way to a good life.

So there are all these different traditions. They have all been handed down to us, and I’m not going to tell a young person which one to believe, but pick one. Because we tell them you’ll come up with your own world view. Well, if your name is Aristotle, Aristotlemaybe – with your own real view. The rest of us, we have to learn from somebody else. So, the dead have given us this great gift and I just lay them out for the students and for the readers of the book and I say pick one. It will help you out to inherit a tradition, a full integration that greater minds than your own who know you better than you know yourself have left for us as presents.

I’ve jed-catmull-steve-jobsust finished reading Becoming Steve Jobs. And, just last week, I completed reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, head of Pixar. I came away with this from the two books: though Mr. Catmull never quite claimed credit, it’s pretty clear that Steve Jobs learned much from him – considered him a mentor.

Steve jobs had a reputation that he was pretty much his own course charter. But, he learned from another – he was willing to learn from someone else, and Ed Catmull seemed to be the right fit, at the right time.

So, the question is, today and always, who are you learning from? Unless your name is Aristotle, you probably should develop a teachable spirit, and be on the lookout for your next mentor/teacher/guide.

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

One response

  1. I am reaading The Road to Character right now. The key takeaway for me so far has been Brooks’s examples of people who fill their life with what the world needed from them, not necessarily what they wanted internally. His examples of Francis Perkins (first woman to serve in the US Cabinet) and Dorothy Day (social activist) based their adult lives on serving others in need, rather looking internally for what would enjoy doing or even be particularly good at.
    Today’s culture emphasizes that people look inward to determine what to do with their life. What are they good at? What do they enjoy? What would make them financially successful? What could they be the best at? In The Road to Character, Brooks is highlighting people who asked the question, “What does the world need from me?”, and found their passion, their calling from that. He shows that their lives where not filled with many of our contemporary indicators of success, but they valued how they lived their lives following a true vocation, a calling, a passion without them. I wonder how many people today would trade the visible signs of success (title, awards, wealth, prestige, celebrity, etc.) for the peace these people show in making the difference in the world they felt was their duty to do.

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