One of my all-time favorite books has to be Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger. The book is an exploration of the human mind and how we think coupled with guidelines for better thinking. As the title suggests, all of the material is viewed through the lens of Darwin’s theory of evolution and the wit and wisdom of Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (recognized as one of the greatest investors and minds in the world). For a bit of background noise while working today, I decided to listen to a string of lectures by Munger.
Aside from picking up a few new ideas about psychology, the talks indirectly got me thinking about how easy it is to discount the opinions of others because they don’t fit in to your existing view of the world. If you didn’t know who Charlie was, you could easily dismiss him as just another “rich old white guy.” While he is rich, old, and white, the wealth he and his partner Warren have managed to amass through Berkshire isn’t a fluke. Listening to Charlie, you learn that their success is founded on a deep understanding of human psychology, behavior, and economics.
Had I dismissed Charlie under the aforementioned archetype, I could have lost out on a boatload of wisdom. Something I’ve learned over the last few years is that you have to look far beyond appearances and avoid assumptions about what someone can contribute to your thinking. The key is to develop a skill for filtering out the pretense in your head.
Even the people that don’t align with your definition of a “good person” can often teach you something. I’ve learned great, great, things from folks I’d consider sleezey, not because I listened to their schtick, but because I listened to what was around the schtick and how they presented it.
When it comes to opportunities for learning, always second-guess yourself when you think you have someone figured out. They may be a total jerk, but they may have the secret you’ve been missing. Conversely, they could be an unassuming old man who has a self-acknowledged addiction to reading. Learning to filter out your own biases can really help to open up your world and develop a deeper understanding for life. Take in everything, consider the information, and then pass judgment (if necessary). Otherwise? Guzzle.