What Are The Most Valuable Things Everyone Should Know?

This is not a list. This is not “things.” This is the one thing that, if everyone understood, I think the world would be a much better place.

Everything you know came from somewhere else.

This quote of humility contrasts some of our current pop culture, which puts a huge emphasis on achievement instead of fulfillment, and on ego instead of community.

What I want to share, which I’ve learned from Tony Robbins, David Buss, Robert Kiyosaki, countless other authors, teachers, speakers, family and friends—giants—is that you are a product of your environment.

In this case, “environment” means both nature and nurture. I want to focus on how we all handle our environment, how we go through life, and how we interact with each other. Our behavior is driven by two things:

  • Instinct is innate behavior in response to a situation. This comes from the old (or reptilian) brain.
  • Awareness is knowledge and perception of a situation. This comes from our new (or ape) brain.

Awareness separates us from every other animal on the planet—not exclusively, but by degree. A dog is aware… that it is hungry and it wants to chase that squirrel. That’s about it.

Humans, on the other hand, have the mental capacity to question, challenge, reflect, and, in a word, to think. The unfortunate thing is that so few of us do so, at least where it counts…

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford

Sure, we think about what we want for dinner tonight and what TV show we want to watch. But how much time does the average person spend quietly thinking about what makes him happy, what he wants to accomplish with his life, or how he can be better tomorrow than he was today?

To avoid getting to abstract, let’s bring this back to my point right away: You are the only creature on the planet who doesn’t have to be a slave to your instincts. You have a powerful brain that can choose to reflect before you react. You can even program your own brain to be the person you want to be.

If we can embrace this fact, we can humble ourselves and be grateful for the ones that came before us. We can leverage their legacies to become better people and to create a better world for tomorrow.

So, how do you truly embrace it? Though I am far from having all the answers, here are some practical tips that I’ve picked up:

  1. Dedicate time to thinking. This is especially important as our technology increases, push notifications interrupt, and advertisements bombard. Daily, weekly, 1 minute, 30 minutes, doesn’t matter. But it’s easiest to create a habit if you do it frequently (so try 5 minutes a day). Remove all distractions, and think. I learned this from Tai Lopez.
  2. Use physiology to control your state. If you feel crummy, reach to the sky and smile. Do you feel at least a little less crummy? Our physical position/state affects how we feel. Depressed people frown and slump their shoulders. So, if you want to feel depressed, try that. If you want to feel happy, try something else. I learned this from Tony Robbins (motivational speaker).
  3. Accept that you don’t have all the answers. When you’re confused why someone does, says, behaves, or is a certain way, don’t jump to conclusions and assume that you’re right and they’re wrong. Instead, accept that you just don’t know their whole story. There is always a reason. I learned this from my wife, Leigh Siergiewicz.
  4. Get a head start on the answer by understanding the power of incentives. At it’s most basic level, our brain learns to do things that lead to pleasure and not do things that lead to pain. When you don’t understand why someone did something, know that they had some incentive to behave that way. Understand the incentive, and you understand the behavior. I learned this from Charlie Munger.

Quora is great, because it brings us together as a community to question, answer, and think. We as humans need to focus more on collaboration. We need to change our thinking of competition from “winner and loser” to “both of us get better.” We need to embrace each other and everything we have to gain.

Because, otherwise, what’s the point of any of this?