They all know something you don’t.

One of the actions I gain the most pleasure from is introducing the people in my life to stoicism. Whether they’ve been peers, people I’ve led, managed, or have been lead or managed by, I always try to share the beauty of stoicism. One of the main tenets I’ve adopted to my personal philosophy I borrowed from Stoicism. Ego is the enemy. I now keep an eye out for things that make my ego flare-up. Someone making a passive comment that insinuates I’m not intelligent, whenever I infer malice based on someone’s words or someone implying I’m not good enough for a task. All of these things make my ego pop up.

As I read more philosophy I started to think about instances that would make my ego show up. Why was I so worried about everyone else being “smarter,” wiser, or more intelligent than me? What if they actually were? Then I came across some wise words from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

How true this is. Many times we lose ourselves in title and rank. “I’m better than X because I get paid more,” “Well I’m above them, they should listen to me,” or the classic “they’re brand new, what do they know?”

After reflecting on Mr. Emerson’s words I began to think of my father. Formally uneducated beyond elementary school, usually covered in dirt, grease, cement, paint, or any combination of these due to his manual labor jobs. When I think of wisdom, I think of this man always. Patience, analytical thinking, more patience, reflective, and well-spoken. The number of things I have learned from him, as a child and now as an adult, are innumerable. Anyone who would dismiss what he has to stay based on his station in life would have a hard time earning my respect. More so, they’d be missing out on free, raw, and real life-experience. He’s a wellspring of knowledge! And there it was, Mr. Emerson made sense. You can learn from anyone regardless of who they are.

Regardless of how much you make or how successful you are, if you know nothing about cars, is the mechanic not your superior? If you speak only one language is your bilingual coworker not superior to you? When was the last time you were attempting to complete a task and someone happened to walk by and flippantly said: “try it this way!” We are typically okay with someone “above” us knowing more as that is expected. Bosses, teachers, instructors, doctors. But what if someone is “beneath” us? How could they possibly know more than me?

Put your ego aside and remember that everyone knows more about something than you do. You never know when that slick trick is going to make itself known. It may come from that co-worker who chews his food with his mouth open and talks too loudly or the white belt in jiu-jitsu class who has no experience and hasn’t been tainted by rules or bad habits. Everyone knows something you don’t. Be willing to humble yourself to that idea and you’ll start to collect their secrets.

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