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Five things that will give you more wisdom

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1. You don’t know everything

Don’t be too worried about figuring it all out. An Indian proverb tells of a group of blind men arguing over what an elephant’s like. One who touched the elephant’s side said it was like a wall. Another touched one of the elephant’s legs and said it was like a tree. A third man touched the elephant’s tail and said it was like a rope.

Who was right? They were all right, but none were seeing the whole picture. There are things mankind simply doesn’t yet know. Fortunately, from a business perspective, no matter how confident they may appear, you can expect there’s a lot your competitors also don’t know.

2. Some people are rude

According to people who study Tom Cruise movies, a lot of them share common themes. One is that people who seem like adversaries early on often end up being great friends and allies as the story progresses. Another is the reverse, that a true villain emerges as somebody’s social veneer falls off.

There’s a lot of truth to this in life and a reason not to put too much stock in superficial first impressions. Somebody might appear rude and be an awesome person if you give them a chance. Somebody else might have great manners and actually be the one you should watch out for.

3. You can tell yourself to be happy

You’re not a slave to your feelings. Struggle with negative emotions? We all do, but you can actually train your brain to be more positive by choosing to think more positive thoughts. Scientists have observed that when you learn to look at things from a more positive viewpoint, you create new neuropathways in your brain that over time make you happier overall.

4. What makes you different can be what gives you the edge

Most of us don’t like to be different. But sometimes the things that make us unique are the things that give us an edge in life and in business. Some of my most successful decisions have come from things I observed around me that seemed obvious to me, but that weren’t really on anybody else’s radar.

For example, I was at the gym in the middle of the night the other day – I’m at my most energetic late – and after a good workout I felt a little disappointed I couldn’t use any of my extra energy on business calls, given it was 2 am. Then, I realized I should find some business opportunities in a country where they’re awake at 2 am my time, so now I’m looking forward to exploring ventures in Australia.

5. Our society is probably wrong about a lot

I watched a cute video recently of a little girl shouting at a guy going on an early morning jog, “You’re winning! You’re winning at life!” And it made me think, is that what it means to win at life? To be diligent about your workout routine? Is it to make a lot of money? Is it about impressing other people? Our society would give a resounding “yes” to all of the above.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but before going along with the crowd it’s worthwhile to consider how much our own society has gotten wrong in the last couple hundred years. There are many things that “everybody believes,” but it’s important for us to ask whether “everybody” is actually right.

Eric Eisenhammer is a political strategist and technology entrepreneur in northern California.

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