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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

Admit Yourself, acrylic, paper, charcoal and magnetic stripe cards on canvas, 30"x30", 2005, Stuart Sheldon

“Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.”  John Wayne.

As we crest a new year, it would do us all good to acknowledge we have much to learn. We’re all in our patterns and routines. I bet 85% of what you’ve done already today is roughly the same as you did yesterday … and the day before. That’s not a bad thing. But it’s a big world out there with many flavors to lick.

No matter our age, intellect or experience level, our brains are muscles in need of fresh and ongoing exercise. Let’s commit to learning and doing some new and useful things in 2014.

It does not need to be monumental. You don’t need to learn latin. Or dig a well. I’m talking about hiking a new trail. Cooking a recipe from a culture you don’t know. Rolling out a fresh ad campaign.

Let’s shuffle the deck. There’s nothing to lose. And much to be gained for not just you but those you know, because you’ll become more interesting … and more valuable. Learn CPR and you might be a hero in a restaurant. Learn to tie a bowline knot and you may be asked to go sailing. Learn to to cut your kids hair, and save $15 bucks a pop. Give them faux-hawks while your at it.

Here’s how we do this:

STFUThat’s right, be quiet and listen. As the adage says, you have two ears and one mouth; so listen twice as much as you speak. Make that thrice.

Read More Books: Few things build knowledge, vocabulary and insight into the human condition like entering the untamed imaginations of smart, crazy, heartful geniuses. For an inexpensive and vicarious thrill, put away the Drudge Report and US Weekly and pick up a novel. Here’s a suggestion, Claire of the Sealight by Edwidge Danticat. Just finished it. Lovely!

Up Your Game: Find people better than you at everything you do. Nobody improves their tennis by playing at or below their level. Lose gracefully until you win. Or at least tie. Or lose by less. Success is relative.

Be discerning: What passes for “facts” these days is too often idiocy repackaged and shamelessly uploaded for the gullible. View all new media sources with jaundiced eyes, including this one.

Change Your Routine: Patterns are good and safe and comforting … but mix it up. Dig out some new phone numbers. Hit some esoteric lectures. Try beginner yoga. You don’t need to alter your course 180 degrees. Try 12 degrees. Just slightly to the left.

Write It Down: RIGHT NOW write down one thing you plan to do differently. Even if you just toss it immediately, things seem more real when you can see them in print.

Call Your MotherJust because you can!

Camping backcountry in Zion National Park back in the day. GET OUT THERE!

Camping backcountry in Zion National Park back in the day. GET OUT THERE!

I know many things, and one of the things I know is that I don’t know most things. I will never know most things. But, by the end of 2014, I will know many more things. And so can you!

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