Seek. Meet. Learn. (Repeat.)

You don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. No one alive knows everything.

Change “everything” to “everything in your chosen field” and it still won’t be true. Change it even further, to “as much as you need to know” and now you’re just fooling yourself.

It’s true that you know something. I know something. Everyone knows something. We all know different amounts of something – some are experts on one kind of something, and you might have a solid grasp on another kind of something.

But, when it comes down to it, we don’t know the same somethings.

This is where the greatest potential lies: in swapping somethings and gaining a more complete picture of the things that make up our world.

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before

When we encounter people with a vast amount of knowledge, we ultimately have three choices: we can compete, we can defer, or we can learn.

Competition comes from arrogance and shows an unwillingness to grow. Deference is steeped in anxiety and a fear of being seen as stupid or dull or unskilled.

Learning is humble. It makes us better, while simultaneously giving a little dap to the person we see as the teacher. It builds relationships. Oh, man – there’s that word. Relationships.

Relationships, people. We’re not talking social media 2.0 synergy blah blah, but real relationships – built upon common interests, tied together by respect, unconcerned about whether you’re properly networking or if this is just a waste of time cuz you’ll never get funding from this sap without twisting the knife.

Nope. We’re talking real relationships. The ones without an agenda. The ones that benefit both sides.

Ask Stupid Questions

It doesn’t have to be all career-oriented and serious. It can be just an informal chat on something you’re interested in.

I don’t know as much about radio (or plants for that matter) as Ted from Rock Garden Tour, but I had a blast talking to him the other day about radio and plants and the art therein. I don’t know as much about indie rock as Scott, but that didn’t stop me from trying to follow along as he rattled off a billion bands I’d never heard of after recording The Ledge. I ask the photographers I admire about photography. I pushed into the world of Web and UX with expert knowledge and direction from one person who will become my boss in a few weeks and another who I only know through the Internet.

I’ve learned from all of them by asking stupid questions.

That’s. How. You. Do. It.

I won’t deny it. I’ve been that Competition guy. And I’ve been that Deference guy. I didn’t want to look stupid so I didn’t want to talk to people who were smarter than I was and in the event I did – watch out! – I tried to outdo them.

I’m willing to bet that you’ve been there too. Or maybe you’re still there.

It’s not easy to break out of those habits. To talk to people. To glean knowledge, not force it. But if I’ve learned one thing in the past decade, it’s this:

Stop trying to KNOW. Start trying to LEARN.

The Moral

Seek out the people you admire. Offer to buy them lunch or a beer or a pack or basketball cards or whatever it is that gets them excited and just talk to them about whatever they’re passionate about. Ask questions, but mostly just listen.

You’ll get more. They’ll get more.

Everyone wins.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 18th, 2010