The Moment I Realized I Wasn’t Very Smart and How it Changed Me

I went to college later than most, so by my junior year, I was like 22 or 23.  One day, in political science class, the professor makes an analogy, comparing something to Nazi Germany. 

Right then, this 18-year old girl interrupts him and says, “I’m appalled to hear you say that.”

Uh, maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but now, I’m riveted.  He said, “Excuse me?  Why?”  And she went on to explain it to him, which opened a conversation back and forth between them that was way over my head.  There was no Discovery Channel back then.  No Google, Wikepedia, or even the internet.  So, she didn’t get her info from easy sources.

And she wasn’t just regurgitating data.  She knew what she was talking about and was able to have an intelligent discussion in real time. 

When the class ended, I walked back to my apartment through the snow with a blank stare.  I’ve already been in and out of the military and had two years of college behind me and this 18 year old girl had me in awe.

I realized I wasn’t on that level and it hit me hard.  I wasn’t taking education very seriously.  Not just college, but life education.  I barely read a text book to pass a quiz, let alone reading anything outside of school. 

This one moment happened in a class that I only took, because it fit into my schedule.  It changed my approach to learning, school, career, and life in general.  I don’t remember anything about political science though.    

Since I graduated, I’ve read over 600 non-fiction books on various subjects.  Mostly business, sociology, psychology, yoga, martial arts, philosophy, and biographies.  Other stuff sprinkled in here and there; whatever caught my attention at the time. 

I still read about three books a month.  Amazon loves me.  But, not only do I read them, I look up the author to see if they have a TED talk and I’ll watch that.  I’ll go on YouTube to see if they’ve been interviewed.  I’ll sit quietly and think about the subject matter and then I’ll have conversations with people who love having conversations, just to try out and play with the knowledge.

The ability to think is far more valuable and empowering than simply knowing what to think.  The moment I think I know, is the moment I know I don’t know enough. 

Knowledge is only academic.  Being able to think with that knowledge, producing original thoughts in real time, solving problems, and contributing to intelligent dialogue is something quite else.    

In many martial arts, a first-degree black belt means, now you’re ready to learn. 

I am always ready to learn.  To that girl (can’t remember her name), Thank You!  I hope that you’re accomplishing great things.  You did with me. 

Photo Courtesy of Lock Haven University, PA

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