Learning Begins With Humility
As a thinker and a teacher, Epictetus preached humility. “It’s impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks they already know,” he said.
~Lives of the Stoics, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
One of my favorite things to do is play trivia games. I used to be intensely curious. Less so now, but I still retain some of that curiosity. Because of this, I would read a lot of really random stuff. I also used to have a pretty good memory. Again, less so now, but some things still stick in there for no reason whatsoever. So, I remember a lot of really random things.
When I was in 8th grade, I was on the Academic Pursuit team. Settle down, I’m taken… This was essentially a trivia competition. Our team ended up going undefeated in the county and won the championship. I’m sure I have a ribbon or a trophy somewhere from it. One person on the team was a trivia gold mine. It wasn’t unusual for him to have one-third to one-half of the points for the team. He was incredible.
A few years back I was playing on the app Trivia Crack. One young lady in my church challenged me to a game, and I won pretty easily. I think I may have actually won by the second or third round. Afterwards, she asked how I did it. I jokingly said, “You know, I don’t tell people this very often, but I’m actually really smart.” She replied, “You don’t understand. You didn’t just beat me. My whole family was playing.”
Around this same time, a friend of mine was attending a trivia night at a local restaurant. He invited me to come along one evening. We ended up winning that night. I went back the next week, and I think we won that night as well. It was just fun. I think we won enough money to pay for our drinks and appetizers. Not a bad night.
I recently started playing another version of Trivia Crack, and it’s been a lot of fun. I still haven’t lost a game, but that’s not the fun part. It’s just the random trivia I enjoy.
I say all this to say that I’m not kidding when I talk about enjoying trivia, and even though I was joking with this young lady, I really am fairly smart. But, I also know that there’s a lot of people out in the world that are a whole lot smarter than me. I’m not running around with an inflated ego saying that I’m the best there is.
And that’s what we need to do in any area of our lives. We need to have some humility and realize, as Qui-Gon Jinn says in The Phantom Menace, “There’s always a bigger fish.”
In today’s quote from Stoic philosopher Epictetus, he hits on the importance of humility, especially when it comes to learning. After all, if we think we already know something, we aren’t going to learn any more about it. But education should foster a sense of curiosity and a desire to constantly learn more.
I know that we can’t retain everything — at least, most people can’t; there are some truly remarkable people out there that do — however, that doesn’t mean we can’t continually be learning something. Life is certainly more interesting when we are willing to learn something new.
So, what are you learning about today?