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Reaching Beyond the Immediacy of Our Experience

“Men honor what lies within the sphere of their knowledge, but do not realize how dependent they are on what lies beyond it.” – Zhuang Zhou

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves and wiser people are so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell

Robert Greene, in his great book Mastery, describes the challenge a missionary had with understanding the language of a remote tribe in the Amazon. The key for the missionary to unlock the code of their language was when he realized that everything they did was based on immediacy of experience, for what was not before the tribe’s eyes did not exist.

You don’t have to dive too deeply into social media to recognize that this trait is deeply embedded in the larger world today. So many believe at face value what they’re familiar with, and ignore the prospect that what they’ve learned might not be true. Worse, they parrot what they believe to be true, reinforcing their immediacy of experience instead of transcending it.

Part of the problem is that people become comfortable being comfortable. Sticking with the same social circle that believes a certain thing, not challenging family or a leadership figure in your life that spouts a certain viewpoint to the exclusion of all others, and most of all, not challenging ourselves. For questioning our very beliefs can becomes very uncomfortable indeed.

“People who do not practice and learn new skills never gain a proper sense of proportion or self-criticism.” – Robert Greene, Mastery

To reach wisdom is to grow beyond the immediacy of our experience. This seems self-evident, doesn’t it? Growth infers expansion. To go beyond our present limitations. It’s not comfortable, but growth is never comfortable. And we must persist through discomfort to transcend it.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

The path to progress, mastery, wisdom, excellence… whatever you choose, necessitates placing yourself into the uncomfortable. This may feel at times like being overwhelmed, or being called out by others, or dealing with imposter syndrome, or a combination of all of these things. We’ve got to wade through all of this to reach beyond our limits. Where, deep down, we know that we ought to be.

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