Thursday, November 28, 2019

Life's wisdom: Relationship advice

There is NO such thing as a 50-50 split. 
Things will always be unequal between partners. 
Some days you will be called on to give more because your wife needs more help, but the scales always tip back and next week you may need her support. 
At times, you may be called on to give 100%, or you may need her complete support because you have nothing left to give.
Here's the important part: if you are not willing to accept this temporarily unequal state of affairs, then you shouldn't be married. 
If you don't love your wife enough to put her happiness and wellbeing above your own, then you don't deserve it when she does that for you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

10 most important life skills

  • The skill of truly listening to others. Most people are simply waiting for their turn to speak in a given conversation. Don’t be one of them. Learn to listen to what others have to say. To internalize it and truly understand it. It will make a world of difference.
  • The skill of accepting yourself. We’re all fucked up. We all have trauma. We all have parts of ourselves that we hate. It’s simply a part of the human condition. To experience true happiness, you must learn to accept yourself as you are while you work to transform yourself into who you need to be.
  • The skill of saying “no”. Most of us allow other people’s schedules and agendas to run our lives. From our parents to our friends to our coworkers to our bosses. We’ve become a nation of “yes men” (and women” incapable of prioritizing our own needs and desires. Learn to say “no” and mean it to make more time for the things that matter.
  • The skill of being happy with where you are. Famous venture capitalist Naval Ravikant has said that, “Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” And he’s right. Most of us have more luxury, abundance, and convenience than the richest and most prosperous humans of the last thousand years. But we’re completely miserable. You must learn to be happy with where you are. To appreciate your stage in the journey of life while you work toward your goals and ambitions. Happiness is a choice. So choose happiness.
  • The skill of authenticity. Most people think of authenticity as something you “have” or “don’t have”. But authenticity is a skill and a choice. You must learn how to act in alignment with what you really value, to shut out the noise of society, and to listen to your higher self. Although we are all born with this skill, the world beats it out of us by the time we hit puberty and it’s up to you to strengthen it once again.
  • The skill of selecting the right romantic partners. Nothing will have a bigger impact, for better or worse, than the person with whom you choose to share your life. The problem is, most people are horrible at selecting the right romantic partner for themselves. To develop this skill, you must first gain a clear understanding of who you are and what you value and seek partners who align with your vision and values. If you do not learn this skill, you’re in for a world of hurt.
  • The skill of relaxing and being. Most of us struggle to simply be. We think we have to be doing something all the time to be worthy of love or acceptance. But the truth is, you are enough just as you are. You must learn how to unwind and simply be present. To enjoy the experience of being human without needing to constantly be in motion. There’s a reason that both Eastern and Western philosophy claim presence is the ultimate form of enlightenment.
  • The skill of perspective. When disaster strikes, it’s easy to believe that our world is ending. That the universe hates us. That everything is going to hell in a handbasket. But the simple truth is that—baring death or catastrophic injury—very few things matter as much as we pretend they do. You’re going to be fine and the worst-case scenario is still better than what 50% of the population faces on a daily basis. Never lose sight of this.
  • The skill of resilience. Most people assume that tough, mentally strong, and disciplined people were simply “born that way”. But after interviewing 400+ of the world’s highest achievers, I’ve learned that nothing could be further from the truth. Resilience and disciplines are skills. Skills that take time, pain, and persistent inoculation against stress. (Go take cold showers for 30 days and you’ll see what I mean).
  • The skill of speaking your truth. To live the happiest life possible, you must live in integrity with your truth. You must own who you are, what you believe, and what you want without fear or reservation. And you must develop the skill of speaking your truth with kindness…even (and especially) when it’s hard. As the old saying goes, “The truth will set you free”

3 big ideas

Big Idea #1

You don’t find your passion, you create it.

Trying to “find your passion” implies that there is some purpose out there waiting for, some higher calling, and all you have to do is discover it…

“Finding your passion” is a cliché excuse for not committing to anything.

You’re not “destined” for anything – you can do whatever you want.

And usually, what you’re most passionate about, is right under your nose.

Big Idea #2

It’s not about Your Passion, It’s About Your Values…

If you are “looking for your passion” – switch your focus to your values.

You must understand what you value deepest in life, and pursue activities that help you maximize those values.

What kind of impact do you want to make on the world? What kind of skills would you like to develop? What do you want to create? What do you want to be good at?

You don’t need to know these answers fully, but you do need to take action.

Once you get started, on anything, your mind mobilizes its forces to your aid.

But nothing happens until you start on something.

Big Idea #3

Passion is a side effect of mastery.

We tend to be excited and happy with things we’re good at.

We tend to love things we’re good at, especially when they impact people, or make us money.

You should adopt the mindset of a craftsman – shifting your focus away from “finding your passion” and instead, on mastering your craft.

On committing to become the best in the world at your thing.

Do this and amazing things will happen.

You may just discover your passion ;)

And remember…

Even the most passionate people in the world don’t feel “passionate” all the time.

Like motivation, passion is an emotion.

Which means it’s inconsistent and unreliable.

So, instead of wasting energy “finding your passion”, the lesson today is:

Pursue whatever interests you…

Get really good at your “thing.”

And get started on something, anything.

and be awesome!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Paradoxes of Life

  1. The more you seek approval from others, the less you will get it.
  2. You can only be brave when you are afraid.
  3. If you aren’t happy now, you won’t be happy after you achieve your goals.
  4. We aren’t wired to be happy and fulfilled, but to be miserable and safe.
  5. Without failures, there can be no consistent success.
  6. Wisdom is realizing that you know so little.
  7. The more available you are to people, the less they will respect you.
  8. Nobody will love you if you don’t love yourself.
  9. A king and a slave have the same duties i.e. to serve others.
  10. If you find yourself in toxic relationships over and over again, then it’s your fault — you teach people how to treat you.
  11. Whatever you think is stopping you from living the life you want is not stopping you, but only you.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

50 unwritten rules

  1. Always say thank you, sorry , when it's needed.
  2. Never break a promise. When you swear something, when you promise it, do everything to keep your word.
  3. Wearing headphones in public is a code to say "do not talk to me". So if someone is wearing it, do not talk to him.
  4. Always be nice, especially to those who bring you food.
  5. In all the negotiations that you do (in family, between friend and especially in business), do it in writing. Sign a contract.
  6. When you meet someone, be sure to have a firm handshake.
  7. When someone walks his dog and approaches you, ask permission before stroking the animal.
  8. Do not flatter proudly, let alone around people.
  9. Do not play with your phone when you are around people or in a public place.
  10. When you post something vulgar or insult someone on the Internet, it says more about you than the person you insult.
  11. If you have borrowed something, make it right after using it.
  12. Everyone needs a personal space, a moment of their own.
  13. Prefer the phone call rather than messages during a formal discussion.
  14. Be quiet when other people are sleeping. This means not to talk, not to slam the doors, close the drawers with caution, etc etc
  15. Put things back in their place - both at home and at the store.
  16. If you are finishing the toilet paper at work or at home, be sure to bring another roll or be sure that people know that there is no more.
  17. Have a healthy lifestyle (be clean)
  18. Always hold the door for the elderly - your parents including
  19. Do not sneeze and cough in the direction of people, neither in your hand, but in your elbow
  20. Do not raise your voice when you talk to your parents and do not be vulgar with them.
  21. You will not comment on the baby making noise in the movies. At the limit, you will see security.
  22. When you go to someone's home, never look at their computer, their room, their drawers or their fridge without their permission.
  23. When you know someone for a long time, as long as they do not try to talk about it themselves, never ask them about their age or salary.
  24. Do not embarrass your host by asking him something he probably does not have.
  25. When you wait for a visit, make arrangements to make them feel welcome.
  26. When someone brings you to the restaurant, always wait for that person to order first. Look at the price of the dish he picks and line up.
  27. Do not let your guests set the table, unless they insist.
  28. Never hit anyone. But if things go wrong and he starts to hit you, try not to take the first shots. And replicate, loudly.
  29. If you are parents and the friends of your children come home: For dinner, do not sit with them. They will not ask for food if you are there.
  30. Do not judge people by the way they dress or because of their religion 
  31. Living with your parents is not ok, live in your own home when you grow up 
  32. Do not ask about someone else's religion, about their political opinions, unless they are open to talking about it.
  33. When you have to pay at the cash desk, pay with change when it comes to a small purchase (a few cents or euros) and not with the credit card.
  34. You can not blame society for your failures.
  35. Always answer people you know and your friends. If you see the message, answer, make the habit. Otherwise, put the phone away to not see the message
  36. Each office will have people with different ethnicities. If you eat all together, do not speak in your native language.
  37. Do not look at others' toilets, it's uncomfortable, irritating and boring.
  38. In public transport, listen to music in your headphones. (Initially, I did not understand this advice - But after several indications by readers, it would be not to listen to his music on a speaker but rather on headphones, not to disturb)
  39. If you call in a public place, always speak quietly and calmly so as not to disturb people around you.
  40. Do not smoke while walking. It's painful for people behind. Better yet, don't smoke at all.
  41. If you have to turn right, make sure to be in the right lane - no "I pass from left to right directly by cutting the road to people behind"
  42. The highway code is important. Follow the rules of the road and traffic lights.
  43. Listen, always watch and always be ready to improve the situation.
  44. Avoid staying in someone's home for more than three days. No matter how close you are to this person, you change their everyday life and their personal lives.
  45. Have confidence in your life. It will be a blessing of the gods during hard times, urgency, depression or hardship.
  46. If you borrow a car, return it with full fuel if necessary.
  47. Wish the cashier a good day. A smile will not cost you anything.
  48. Consider the very people who are below you (hierarchically or otherwise). In short, be humble and modest.
  49. Do not judge people by their gender. Everyone has the same rights, and can live as he sees fit.
  50. Women are not sexual objects. Treat women as human beings.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

6 habits best to have

1. Self-knowledge.
It's pretty hard to become a better version of yourself if you don't know what you are improving on. To map out your journey you need a starting point as well as destination. And because you change all the time, you should study yourself all the time.
“Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves–their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.” — Peter F. Drucker
The habits that can help you in this area:
a) Meditation
There are zillions of benefits to meditation, including increased focus and finishing at a lower blood pressure. Of these, I consider self-awareness the biggest benefit. Usually, you just automatically respond to your subconscious thoughts. Meditation makes you aware of those thinking patterns and allows you to step between the impulse and your response.
b) Journaling
Capturing your self-talk on paper is very enlightening. It's a powerful tool to clarify your thoughts and to gather plenty of data on yourself.
I journal six days a week and review my entries on Sundays. Sometimes, I write about my emotions and recent events, but always from the perspective of asking why this small trigger released such a strong emotion or what caused me to behave in such a way yesterday.
But most often, I simply research my internal world, journaling about my doubts, dreams, fears, aspirations, etc.
While meditation gives you self-knowledge on emotional level, journaling gives it on both emotional and intellectual levels.
2. Health.
A successful person rarely doesn’t care about their health. It was more common in the past, when people moved more and were eating real food, not the semi-chemical crap we consume now.
But even back then folks like Benjamin Franklin recognized the importance of exercise and diet. Nowadays, health and success are almost synonyms. Of course, you can be sick and still become a better version of yourself. It is simply much fricking harder.
I'm a very healthy person, but I don’t sell as many books as she does. I cannot imagine how I could’ve succeeded with my books while battling with constant pain and dozens of pesky afflictions connected to her disease.
With today's health fad we all know what to do to improve our health. You know it too. It's time to do, instead of contemplating.
a) Exercise
Every single day. We are spiritual creatures in physical bodies. We need to move our bodies to stay in decent shape.
b) Eat Well
There are plenty of different diets. Some of them come from religion or lifestyle choices. But there is one truly healthy rule: eat as many unprocessed foods as possible.
What's "processed?" You know this as well. An apple was on a tree a few days ago. A pizza was not.
c) Sleep Well
Eight hours a night is a rule of thumb. Sleep needs are individual. 
Humans in natural conditions sleep 6.5 to 7.25 hours.
Find your sleep needs and get enough sleep.
d) Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is one of the modern world's curses. Another rule of thumb is drink 8x8 ounces or 2 litres of water a day. Those needs are individual too. A tiny gal needs less water than 7-feet ogre.
And don't drink empty calories (soda). That's not a path to good health.
3. Networking.
Successful people deliberately network with others.
“Your network is your net worth.” ― Tim Sanders
Your worth is not only monetary. I think, the financial aspect is the least important. Your self-worth is determined to a huge degree by the people you associate with. Successful people understand that and that's their primary motivation for cultivating their network.
Helpful habits:
a) Thank You Notes
People don't even take time to thank others nowadays. You will stand out using this simple technique. Handwritten thank-you notes are more powerful. They’re rare in the digital age.
You can send a short audio or video. They’re more powerful than a simple email.
b) Testimonials
Testimonials are like public thank you notes. Write reviews, give testimonials, share them on your social media. The receiver will appreciate it.
c) Collaborate
It always pushes the envelope a bit. When you have to work on common projects your level of interaction increases naturally.
d) Spend Time
This simple networking method always works. You should apply it especially with the people you look up to. The more you can be around your mentors, the faster you will emulate them in your life.
4. Vision.
Successful people are obsessed with their vision, whatever it is. But first they need to create one. That's why I started with self-knowledge. It takes some soul searching to discover (Victor Frankl said "detect") your life mission.
Once they realize what they want to achieve, they keep that vision in front of their mind as often as possible. Average people are often amazed by the drive of successful people. But this drive is not a result of a single enlightenment, as we like to imagine. Successful people habitually refer to their vision every day.
Useful habits:
a) Personal Mission Statement
Well, you need to first create one. Once you have it, there are many methods to use it. You can read it, listen to it, repeat in your mind, visualize it and so on. The point is to refer to it every single day, so your mission is always in your mind's agenda.
b) Vision Board
Humans think in images. If you have a visual reminder of your purpose, you can look at it multiple times a day.
c) Visualization
You can simply imagine the joy of fulfilling your purpose. Visualizing yourself in the process of getting there would be even better.
5. Education.
The biggest mistake you can make is to think that you are finished learning when you earn your degree. Education is a lifelong process.
“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn
And it is you who have to take charge of your education. Today’s education systems are outdated and expansive. What is more, you need proper learning habits. It's no longer about appearing in the class 5 days a week. It's about studying on your own as often and long as needed.
Handy habits:
a) Reading
Read books, blog posts or articles in specialized magazines- whatever makes you more knowledgeable about your subject.
b) Listening
YouTube has countless hours of useful lectures, workshops and speeches. You can convert them into audio and listen to them while doing semi-mindless tasks like driving or washing dishes.
c) Watching
It's not my cup of tea, but there are people who learn well from watching videos. If that describes you, go for it.
d) Teaching
You retain more if you teach what you've just learned, because you create more associations to your knowledge. Also, your students may challenge your assumptions and you need to reflect on your knowledge base to come up with convincing arguments.
e) Doing
There is no better learning method than practice. Each time you use your knowledge you gain experience and create more associations. Practice makes you also a better teacher. Internalized knowledge is four times easier to transfer than dry theory.
6. Habits.
Successful people recognize the utmost importance of habits in their lives. They don't let their habits be a conglomerate of social and physical environment. They consciously work on avoiding bad habits and developing good ones.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
 Your thoughts become your words,
 Your words become your actions,
 Your actions become your habits,
 Your habits become your values,
 Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I don't have useful habits here for you. My point is, you need to analyze, develop and maintain your habits. Self-knowledge and education are very handy for accomplishing that goal.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

How to spread your idea

Whether you’re a businessman, politician, musician, or artist – your success depends on your ability to get your ideas to spread to large amounts of people.

But how do you get them to pay attention to your ideas?

And how do you get people to share your message, and actually care about it?
The more your idea fits this recipe, the more likely it is to be successful.

1. Social Currency

We share things to look good.

We often share information because it shows we are “in the know”

When your idea is backed by social currency,  it means there is value to sharing it with others.

It signals that we are knowledgeable, sexy, funny, or “cool”.

The idea is quite simple:

If sharing your idea or product makes people feel better about themselves (if it adds a “social benefit”) – people are gong to be more likely to share it.

Not because they love you, but because they love themselves.

2. Triggers

We share things when we are triggered to do so by something in the environment.

The more we are reminded of something, the more likely we are to share it.

This is why marketers know that it usually takes at least 7 communications to get someone to buy your stuff.

And here are some crazy examples of how triggers work:

In 1997, the candy company Mars experiences a spike in sales, even though they haven’t changed anything about their marketing.

The reason? NASA had just started a mission to Mars, and it was being reported all over the news.

The simple triggers of “Mars” influenced more people to buy the candy bar.

Another example is The Kit Kat Bar.

In 2007 they launched a Marketing Campaign to link Kit Kats and Coffee, describing the pair as “a break’s best friend”.

The campaign was very successful – sales increased, and the $300 million dollar brand grew into a $500 million brand.

This was another great trigger, because coffee is a common drink to have during mornings and work breaks. Creating this association, influenced more people to have them together.

3. Emotion

When it comes to making decisions, we are often more motivated by our emotions, than our thoughts.

Marketers and salesman understand the power behind this concept and use emotions to get people to take action.

We purchase things based on our emotions, and use logic to rationalize the purchase.

The discovery was that it didn’t matter whether the emotions were positive or negative, but rather if they were high arousal or low arousal.

High Arousal emotions are what get people to take the most action – on the positive side, it’s things like awe, inspiration, excitement, and humor. On the negative side, emotions like anger, fear, and anxiety.

Low Arousal emotions have the opposite effect. Relaxation and contentment may be positive, but they don’t drive us to take action. Same with sadness and misery – they were found to not be that motivating.

When it comes to getting people to share your stuff, the higher arousal, the better.

4. Stories

Facts are necessary and can be persuasive, but if you can use those facts to form a coherent narrative, people are going to remember that information and spread it for you.

Stories are remarkable for making ideas popular. They are easy to remember, they tug at our emotions, and they are hidden with a lot of information that can influence our decisions.

If you tell someone 100 facts to support your idea, you may convince one person.

But if you tell them just one captivating story, you will leave a stronger impact, and they will be more likely to share your idea.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Advice I was given by other people as an adult

 Advice I was given by other people as an adult:
  1. What you see in the mirror is not you. It is a reflection of something more powerful than what you see in the mirror. Find that thing and you’ve ‘cracked the code’ of life.
  2. I am a product of many teachers. I carry them wherever I go. I hear their voices whenever I try to do something wrong. My inner voice tells me to follow my instinct, which sometimes lands me into trouble, but in the end, I’m glad I’ve learned something new.
  3. Don’t listen to something you’ve already heard three times. You’ll not only waste your valuable time but also valuable space in your brain.
  4. Don’t carry an encyclopedia of facts in your brain. Neither store junk in your brain. Use your brain to think instead of a warehouse for facts.
  5. Don’t follow a large crowd. Large crowds always follow a blind person.
  6. When you meet a large crowd going a certain direction always go in the opposite direction.
  7. The reason 99% of people will never become rich is not because they don’t try hard. It is simply because they keep repeating the same mistakes that everybody else is making.
  8. The most difficult project on earth is not becoming rich. The most difficult project on earth is to change your mindset.
  9. If you learn this one thing you’ll never go broke. Learn to convert yourself into value.
  10. Happiness is the only thing you must work extra hard to have because it precedes success.
  11. Good friends are assets but having a bunch of friends who are more knowledgeable than you is security.
  12. Respect for other people ensures that you’ll never run out of people who treat you with respect and hold you in high esteem.
  13. Minimize mistakes by reading biographies of other people who made a lot of mistakes.
  14. Don’t fear failure. Instead, fear that thing that is preventing you from trying because, possibly, it’s also preventing you from your potential success.
  15. When greater difficulties arise, try to remember all the smaller battles you’ve fought and won and the smaller giants you’ve killed. Small achievements always tend to be overlooked more easily whenever greater difficulties come to intimidate us, but it’s the smaller victories that give us the assurance to kill bigger giants.
  16. Fault-finding kills morale and monotony breeds boredom. Why not give people recognition when they’re entitled and bring change when it’s the only option?
  17. Before you start pointing a finger, notice that three fingers are already pointing at you while the thumb is pointing upwards. Adjust your mind so that you start with yourself first before blaming others.
  18. The ear is the wisest organ of the body because it never talks back. This is proof that you will also become very wise if you use your ears to listen and shut your mouth.
  19. Complaining about anything only makes the situation worse because it only proves that you’re waiting for other people to solve the problem while you sit idle.
  20. Putting the best foot forward means that you should always think before you make a move. Those who move without thinking, fall into many traps and will incur heavy losses.
  21. Overcome your emotions however painful they are. Learn to think with your mind instead of your feet. Think on your feet if the situation is bad, by pacing up and down to help your mind to think. A small adjustment to your brain and your thinking pattern can save your life.
  22. Love is the ultimate emotion that controls the mind and soul. However, if you don’t love yourself first, how will you love your neighbor, for your neighbor is a reflection you?
  23. If you neglect your love life, you will certainly neglect yourself for it is only when love is poured outwardly that it makes sense.
  24. Ultimately, we all found ourselves belonging somewhere, which we can’t change; a geographical place, a society, a community, a family. Don’t rely too much on what other people created for you have no idea how they did it. Instead, you’ll probably be much happier if you created your own, which will reflect who you are.
  25. There’s no blindness greater than a lack of vision. Find the meaning of life by finding something to do and getting busy. An idle mind blurs your vision and paralyzes your bones.

Monday, August 05, 2019

How much time do you have left?

If you don't develop the courage to do that which has given to you to do, or if you just go around trying to convince other people or get their approval, what will happen is you will lose your nerve, and other people will convince you that what you are doing doesn't have any value and you'll give up on your dream.
 How much time do you have left? 
When you start thinking about that you will realize that you don't know. 
Most of us don't use the stuff that we have brought into the universe, so stop wasting valuable time in the wake of others opinions. 
If you want something, you have got to be relentless. 
You've got to learn how to become resourceful. 
You've got to learn how to become creative. 
The power to hold on in spite of everything. 
In spite of every excuse your mind can conceive of. 
The power to endure, this is the winners quality
The ability to face defeat and failure again and again without giving up. 
There's greatness in you! 
And you've got to learn how to tune out the critics outside, and more importantly the critic inside! 
Most people give up on themselves easily. 
Did you know the human spirit is powerful? 
It's hard to kill the human spirit! 
You are unstoppable! 
Live your life with passion, and with some drive!

Friday, August 02, 2019

how successful people think

When you work smart, you work on the things that matter.

You work on the things that move you towards your goals.

And you can’t work smart, without dedicating time to think.

Warren Buffett is the CEO of the fourth largest company in the United States, and has arguably one of the world’s most successful business records.

By his own estimate, he has spent over 80% of his career reading, and thinking.

Warren Buffett keeps his schedule wide open.

This is absolutely counter-intuitive to what we think a successful CEO does, and especially with all the “rah rah” work harder gospel being spread around today.

Naturally, we are going to assume that Warren Buffet is an anomaly – and we’d be absolutely correct to think that.

But in the pat few years, this approach to strategy and uninterrupted thinking has gained popularity.

For example, Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL, makes his executives spend four hours per week, just thinking.

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, schedules 2 hours of uninterrupted thinking time each day.

And even Bill Gates is known to take a week off twice a year, just to reflect deeply without interruption.

And I do the same – every morning, before I turn on my phone or computer, I spent 30 minutes just drinking my cup of coffee, and thinking uninterruptedly.

From there, I meditate for 10 minutes, and then journal my thoughts.

It’s a great way to get clarity in your life – for me, it serves as a sort of ‘inventory check’ of where I’m at now, and where I’m going.

Now, aside from carving out some time to “think”, you should have some intentions going into your thinking time…

Here are a few powerful questions to ask yourself and think about:

  1. Am I doing the right things with the right people?
  2. What’s most important to me?
  3. What am I good at?
  4. What am I bad at?
  5. How can I spend more time doing what I’m good at?
  6. How can I spend less time doing what I’m bad at?

Alternatively, you can write down a goal, and to think about how you will strategically move toward it.

And use your constant thinking time to monitor yourself, and adjust your strategy as you move forward.

Daily thinking serves as a sort of ‘accountability check’ and reminder --- are you moving towards what’s important to you?

Monday, June 10, 2019

Always Stay a Student


Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

The legend of Genghis Khan has echoed through history: A barbarian conqueror, fueled by bloodlust, terrorizing the civilized world. We have him and his Mongol horde traveling across Asia and Europe, insatiable, stopping at nothing to plunder, rape, and kill not just the people who stood in their way, but the cultures they had built. Then, not unlike his nomadic band of warriors, this terrible cloud simply disappeared from history, because the Mongols built nothing that could last.

Like all reactionary, emotional assessments, this could not be more wrong. For not only was Genghis Khan one of the greatest military minds who ever lived, he was a perpetual student, whose stunning victories were often the result of his ability to absorb the best technologies, practices, and innovations of each new culture his empire touched.

In fact, if there is one theme in his reign and in the several centuries of dynastic rule that followed, it’s this: appropriation.

Under Genghis Khan’s direction, the Mongols were as ruthless about stealing and absorbing the best of each culture they encountered as they were about conquest itself. Though there were essentially no technological inventions, no beautiful buildings or even great Mongol art, with each battle and enemy, their culture learned and absorbed something new. Genghis Khan was not born a genius. Instead, as one biographer put it, his was “a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation, and constant revision driven by his uniquely disciplined and focused will.”

He was the greatest conqueror the world ever knew because he was more open to learning than any other conqueror has ever been.

Khan’s first powerful victories came from the reorganization of his military units, splitting his soldiers into groups of ten. This he stole from neighboring Turkic tribes, and unknowingly converted the Mongols to the decimal system. Soon enough, their expanding empire brought them into contact with another “technology” they’d never experienced before: walled cities. In the Tangut raids, Khan first learned the ins and outs of war against fortified cities and the strategies critical to laying siege, and quickly became an expert. Later, with help from Chinese engineers, he taught his soldiers how to build siege machines that could knock down city walls. In his campaigns against the Jurched, Khan learned the importance of winning hearts and minds. By working with the scholars and royal family of the lands he conquered, Khan was able to hold on to and manage these territories in ways that most empires could not. Afterward, in every country or city he held, Khan would call for the smartest astrologers, scribes, doctors, thinkers, and advisers—anyone who could aid his troops and their efforts. His troops traveled with interrogators and translators for precisely this purpose.

It was a habit that would survive his death. While the Mongols themselves seemed dedicated almost solely to the art of war, they put to good use every craftsman, merchant, scholar, entertainer, cook, and skilled worker they came in contact with. The Mongol Empire was remarkable for its religious freedoms, and most of all, for its love of ideas and convergence of cultures. It brought lemons to China for the first time, and Chinese noodles to the West. It spread Persian carpets, German mining technology, French metalworking, and Islam. The cannon, which revolutionized warfare, was said to be the resulting fusion of Chinese gunpowder, Muslim flamethrowers, and European metalwork. It was Mongol openness to learning and new ideas that brought them together.

As we first succeed, we will find ourselves in new situations, facing new problems. The freshly promoted soldier must learn the art of politics. The salesman, how to manage. The founder, how to delegate. The writer, how to edit others. The comedian, how to act. The chef turned restaurateur, how to run the other side of the house.

This is not a harmless conceit. The physicist John Wheeler, who helped develop the hydrogen bomb, once observed that “as our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” In other words, each victory and advancement that made Khan smarter also bumped him against new situations he’d never encountered before. It takes a special kind of humility to grasp that you know less, even as you know and grasp more and more. It’s remembering Socrates’ wisdom lay in the fact that he knew that he knew next to nothing.

With accomplishment comes a growing pressure to pretend that we know more than we do. To pretend we already know everything. Scientia infla (knowledge puffs up). That’s the worry and the risk—thinking that we’re set and secure, when in reality understanding and mastery is a fluid, continual process.

The nine-time Grammy– and Pulitzer Prize–winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis once advised a promising young musician on the mind-set required in the lifelong study of music: “Humility engenders learning because it beats back the arrogance that puts blinders on. It leaves you open for truths to reveal themselves. You don’t stand in your own way. . . . Do you know how you can tell when someone is truly humble? I believe there’s one simple test: because they consistently observe and listen, the humble improve. They don’t assume, ‘I know the way.’”

No matter what you’ve done up to this point, you better still be a student. If you’re not still learning, you’re already dying.

It is not enough only to be a student at the beginning. It is a position that one has to assume for life. Learn from everyone and everything. From the people you beat, and the people who beat you, from the people you dislike, even from your supposed enemies. At every step and every juncture in life, there is the opportunity to learn—and even if the lesson is purely remedial, we must not let ego block us from hearing it again.

Too often, convinced of our own intelligence, we stay in a comfort zone that ensures that we never feel stupid (and are never challenged to learn or reconsider what we know). It obscures from view various weaknesses in our understanding, until eventually it’s too late to change course. This is where the silent toll is taken.

Each of us faces a threat as we pursue our craft. Like sirens on the rocks, ego sings a soothing, validating song— which can lead to a wreck. The second we let the ego tell us we have graduated, learning grinds to a halt. That’s why Frank Shamrock said, “Always stay a student.” As in, it never ends.

The solution is as straightforward as it is initially uncomfortable: Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged—what about subjecting yourself to it deliberately? Change your mind. Change your surroundings.

An amateur is defensive. The professional finds learning (and even, occasionally, being shown up) to be enjoyable; they like being challenged and humbled, and engage in education as an ongoing and endless process.

Most military cultures—and people in general—seek to impose values and control over what they encounter. What made the Mongols different was their ability to weigh each situation objectively, and if need be, swap out previous practices for new ones. All great businesses start this way, but then something happens. Take the theory of disruption, which posits that at some point in time, every industry will be disrupted by some trend or innovation that, despite all the resources in the world, the incumbent interests will be incapable of responding to. Why is this? Why can’t businesses change and adapt?

A large part of it is because they lost the ability to learn. They stopped being students. The second this happens to you, your knowledge becomes fragile.

The great manager and business thinker Peter Drucker says that it’s not enough simply to want to learn. As people progress, they must also understand how they learn and then set up processes to facilitate this continual education. Otherwise, we are dooming ourselves to a sort of self-imposed ignorance.

--Excerpted From Ego Is the Enemy