Finding inspiration outside of books, podcasts, and TED talks

Last Monday, I was at my stand-up course, which was held upstairs in a pub. I received a lot of feedback from the course, and it was quite overwhelming to process. I was on stage for the first time, testing how my performance landed. At the end, I felt the need to decompress, so I noticed another student in the slightly covered outdoor vaping area. We started chatting and sharing our stories. She shared her war stories, and I shared stories about people in my family. Despite the age gap of nearly 30 years, we bonded over the brevity of life and our shared desire for adventure. Walking home, I felt like I knew her just a little bit better, and we had a shared moment.

I know this may sound cliché, but wisdom and learning don’t always have to come from authority figures. They don’t have to be delivered from on high. Not all ideas that make life better come from TED talks or podcasts or audiobooks. When we listen openly to the people around us, there is a wealth of wisdom and ideas available to us. Shared experiences hold wisdom. Just by talking to someone and sharing what we’ve been through, we can find common ground and create a bond.

There is also wisdom in differing outlooks. Sometimes we need to look beyond surface differences to find it. There have been instances where I initially felt disconnected from someone, but after engaging in conversation, I discovered fascinating insights. It may take some effort to break through the initial barriers, but once we do, we can uncover valuable perspectives beyond the surface. It’s like cracking open a treasure chest of knowledge.

Wisdom is not absolute. We can be wise about some things and foolish about others. Disagreeing on certain points doesn’t invalidate everything else a person may offer. I’ve been following Rory Sutherland, and while I may have preconceived notions about his political leanings, I’ve found his ideas and thoughts on TikTok to be intriguing and thought-provoking.

I have friends who label me as a centrist, but I’m simply interested in different ideas and viewpoints. I genuinely want to understand how people arrive at their conclusions. If someone is intelligent and can articulate their ideas, even if I fundamentally disagree with them, I still want to learn about their perspective. It’s about gaining more information and expanding my own understanding.

So, where can we find wisdom when we’ve exhausted TED talks and audiobooks and still hunger for growth? We can find it among like-minded individuals in communities of purpose. These are spaces where people are striving towards similar goals. Engaging with such communities and having conversations can be a great way to discover new insights.

For example, I recently found myself in a waiting room at an optometrist’s office. I overheard a comment from someone nearby and chimed in with a joke, much like my dad would have done. This small interaction led to a conversation where we bonded over our shared dissatisfaction with the optometrist’s lack of bedside manner. In that conversation, I even learned something about the eye drops I was using. This knowledge didn’t come from an authority figure, but from a real-world conversation.

One last lesson from my stand-up course: most people are generally nice. If you smile at them, they’ll smile back. If you strike up a conversation, they’ll likely engage with you. So, be the person who initiates the conversation when you see an opportunity. Sometimes people leave conversational “balls” lying around, waiting for someone to pick them up and start playing. These little invitations can lead to enjoyable conversations and learning experiences. Remember, you don’t have to be in charge of the conversation. Just listen and don’t feel the pressure to fill the silence.

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