This dude, Stephen Covey, is a pretty smart motherfucker. He’s written a couple of hugely successful ‘self help’ books about how to become a more successful and ‘effective’ version of yourself. One of the most under-rated skills that smart, skilled, and generally worth-a-shit people focus on is the simple act of really listening. Listening to comprehend. Listening to learn and grow. Listening to expand.
Not listening to refute. Not listening to find loopholes. Not listening to teach.
Listening to understand can help save the world. I don’t think that’s hyperbole. I legitimately believe that the path we’re on right now, with all the unrest, the shouting each other down, the rampant victimhood, and immediate dismissal of others’ problems as somehow lesser than our own, is going to be the downfall of the United States of America, and maybe the world as we know it.
This is something we don’t see in our media much anymore. Watch any CNN/MSNBC/Fox, etc. panel and you will either see lots of people arguing with each other and talking over one another, or two people with exactly the same viewpoint nodding heads and patting each other on the back about how right they are. Very few members of the media invite someone on their show and really talk with them to learn what it is they have to say, to expand their own meager worldview by merging it with someone else’s. A counter-example of this is someone like Joe Rogan. On the Joe Rogan Experience, he invites all kinds of people on, from all walks of life, and has these extremely compelling conversations with them. He counters points here and there, but it’s with intent to press them for legitimacy, to make sure they aren’t bullshitting, and not with the intent to shoot them down and prove how right he is.
I chose the title of this post because no matter where you look in history, you will find some really bright people, but you won’t find a single solitary asshole among them who got to be brilliant on their own. Archimedes, Socrates, da Vinci, Newton, Tesla, Einstein, Curie, Hawking. Read up on them, and you will find that none of them came by their brilliant discoveries on their own. They existed in a sea of other brilliant minds who contributed to their understanding and knowledge.
Every person sees the world through a filter of their own experiences. This works pretty well if humans don’t have to live around other humans who have lived different lives, but it really falls apart when we try to create policies and practices that will govern the lives of people from different parts of a country as large as the United States.
Consider for a moment the geographical and cultural spread of the United States as compared with other countries. Latitude has a massive impact on lifestyle and culture. Compare the approach to food and leisure of someone from the southern US to someone from the Midwest. Being in Texas, we see this within the borders of our own state. Life in Brownsville near the border with Mexico is completely different from life in Amarillo, near Oklahoma, simply due to weather. Add to these inherent differences that we also encourage people from all over the world who are fleeing oppression to come bask in the glory of Liberty and Freedom, and we get an immense spread of life experiences and expectations.
And all of these people have to live together harmoniously, or the greatest social experiment in the history of Earth falls apart in ruins.
And we’re on the brink of it. It’s up to us to save this thing called America.
It can’t be done without sharing perspectives. We all absolutely must learn to hear one another with openness and compassion, in order to build an inclusive and productive society.
Stop. Look. Listen. You might find we have a lot in common.
Stay ready. Stay safe. Stay free.