I Gotta tell you a 100% true story about a wild and crazy serial entrepreneur, a guy whose life is a lesson in estudiante-ness.
That guy was Kevin Thompson. A “hungry” guy if there ever was one. Kevin started showing up on conference calls.
A year or two later I was in a meeting somewhere, a mastermind group. With a bunch of different guys who teach and coach. Someone mentioned a guy named Kevin. Said something like “He does everything I tell him to do.”
“You mean Kevin Thompson? Hey, I know him. He does everything I tell him to do too.”
Someone else said, “Me too.”
“I wish all my customers were like Kevin.”
(I think sometimes people assume we prefer slow learners with money who never actually do anything and just buy everything we offer ’em. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all c-r-a-v-e an eager student.) Kevin sure was that student.
He sold chemicals for killing mold. (Talk about an exciting niche! What a romantic thing to specialize in.) He built GetMoldSolutions.com into a tiny empire, painstakingly applying every imaginable marketing technique to an otherwise unremarkable topic.
Then he went on to something else, and something else.
The guy would just relentlessly execute instructions.
And I gotta tell you, ten years later, if any of us authors and consultants dropped dead on stage, Kevin could step up and finish most of our talks without a beat. He’d probably add a thing or two that we would’ve forgotten to mention.
In regular school, there’s a shame, a stigma, associated with being like Kevin. In public school, the eager, curious kid who sits in the front row, the one who’s passionately engaged absorbing, questioning, debating, raising his hand, staying late after school… they call him the Teacher’s Pet.
They call him a geek and a nerd.
They beat him up and steal his lunch money on the playground.
He walks down the hall and someone nails him in the arm with a clenched fist. Gonna take the smart kid down down a notch or two.
After so many years of that, he grows ashamed of his curiosity. He doesn’t let it show anymore. Eventually he finds himself in the back row along with all the other apathetic kids. He too becomes paralyzed with apathy.
Eventually, he even forgets what it was like to be curious and driven to discover a world filled with wonder.
Suddenly thirty years later he’s staring blankly at the tail lights ahead of him, sipping hot sludgy coffee on the expressway on the way to work at a job where if you excel at what you do, you make everyone else look bad.
The acid bath of mediocrity eats through his skin until his nerves are dead and he doesn’t feel anything anymore.
He lumbers through his day and he feeds his family and meets his obligations and barely remembers what it was like to yearn for something more.
In fact, just the thought of yearning for something more hurts so bad, he can barely stand to think about it.
So every time he starts feeling that restlessness, he pops in a DVD. Gladiator is a really cool flick. If I watch it, I can feel like a rebel and a victor without getting my chest sliced open in a coliseum of gaping spectators.
Except…. you can’t.
All real gladiators face knives and shields and fists.
Every battle sooner or later gets waged in front of spectators.
And a guy or gal with dead curiosity and numb nerves is not quick or agile enough to step out of the way when that sharp blade comes swinging round.
Why was Kevin different? I dunno. Maybe it was his job on a fishing boat where he lost both front teeth and almost his life. Maybe it was being blind in one eye and always feeling different from everyone else. Maybe it was some moment I don’t even know about, when he just resolved to stand out. Maybe it was some late nite conversation where someone helped clean out his inner head trash.
What I do know is, eager estudiantes get something out of the game that “cool” “nonchalant” estudiantes don’t. What I do know is, if you paid your tuition you should NEVER be ashamed to sit in the front row and ask as many questions as the prof will answer.
What I do know is, every professor loves a curious student. He scans the room looking for passion. When he finds none, he goes home a little less alive than when he came.
When I was a kid, I was insatiably curious. I would ask my dad science questions. My dad didn’t have a scientific bone in his body. “Dad, how do cars work?”
“I don’t know.”
“How do radios work?”
“I don’t know.”
Eventually I just had to go to the library or read the encyclopedias that our friends gave us. But I would find out. Somehow, public education did not succeed in pounding the curiosity and wonder out of me.
Right now the world is in a state of extreme cynicism and despair. There is an atmosphere of helplessness, of victimhood. An overwhelming sense of resignation. A belief that if the next political candidate doesn’t solve our problems, then they’re probably unsolvable. It permeates endless chatter, a million words a second, 24/7/365.
That belief is poison.
It will kill you.
It goes hand in hand with lack of curiosity, sitting in the back of the class throwing spit wads and acting “cool” and scorning the few who came to learn something.
You cannot afford to live that lie for a single minute.
A wondrous world is everywhere around you, sending you silent signals. My buddy Tom Hoobyar used to say “There’s burning bushes everywhere” referring to the story where God talked to Moses from the burning bush.
Wisdom is coming at you 24/7, leading you away from slavery into freedom, if you only have the discernment to pick out which voices to listen to. And the courage to be like Kevin. The courage to be curious and step into that coliseum and fight.