Unless your name is Aristotle, You Need to Learn from Someone — Who do you Learn From? (insight from David Brooks)


Some 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.

The Road to CharacterLast 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 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 we’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 gifts 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 on your own who know you better than you know yourself have left for us as presents.

I’ve just 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.

Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, John Lasseter
Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, John Lasseter

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.

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