Anybody who has met a successful individual is always initially starstruck and is usually left in awe. They admire these individuals, and they aspire to reach the top of the mountain that these leaders have reached. However, most people do not make it to the top and they assume, correctly, that this is because they’ve failed to put in the work.
It is accurate to say that the leaders on the top of the mountain did not just fall there. How did they get there though? What tools did they use? Can’t we just make it there with some good connections, luck and some good old American grit?
What I am about to say may sound like common sense, but as Mark Twain put it, ” common sense ain’t common.” There is a common denominator that these leaders have: they receive. Let me define my terms; by receiving, I mean that these leaders listen and read. In other words, leaders receive ideas.
Every human being is born “tabula rasa” (with a blank slate); everything we know, we know because we received that knowledge from our parents, our teachers, our coaches, and all those who have been here before us.
The human race is a social race. We are standing here today because we worked together, and to work together, we need to communicate. We speak, and we listen; we read, and we write. Without this, we would have gone extinct by now. To listen and to read, however, we need the virtue of humility. From experience, anyone who has lived knows that without humility, we cannot receive.
Listening is important, but I say that reading is more so. This is due to the fact that while you can cross space while speaking and listening( by talking to you across the room, for example), I can cross space and time by writing and reading. By being able to read, we are able to communicate with Plato, Aristotle, Gandhi, Saint Thomas Aquinas, among other great thinkers who have influenced the leaders of today with their great ideas.
But the crossing of space and time is not the only benefit to reading. Reading also challenges your mind and heart, like dumbbells challenge your muscles. Reading invites you into a dialogue with the writer where you express your own thoughts by writing, and writing sharpens and clarifies your own ideas.
To sum it up, leaders reached the top of the mountain by receiving ideas from conversations and books. But, what did they do with these great ideas? Did they sit on them? Or, did they shine a light around them, helping others reach the peak. The problem is that we are all mortal and today’s leaders will not be there tomorrow. We could be tomorrow’s, but it does take work, but at least we now know the common tools to reach the peak.