Honoring Humanity In Everyday Life | About

Learning from Smart People

I can learn much from him.

I seek out those recognized as smarter and wiser. Studying Gandhi or other heroes inspires me and provides an example of how to live. But they aren’t the only ones I learn from.

Everyone is smarter than me in some way.


I start with how I see myself.

Sometimes I act as though I have no flaws
Yet I alone do give myself applause

Why yes, I am well above average in that skill. What? You ask for data to back that up? Don’t be ridiculous. It’s obvious.

All the other drivers on the road are idiots. Am I the only decent one out here today?

Mistakes? Other people make them, but not me.

Yes, I am a master of self-delusion. This is one of the reasons You Are Not So Smart is one of my favorite websites. Each post keeps me humble, helping me understand my shortcomings.

Accepting your faults is not about lowering how you see yourself. Your value is undeniable. Don’t surrender that.

But realize you have something to learn. Put yourself in the place of a student.

See others differently. Instead of viewing them as inferior to you, see them as people worth paying attention to. Then you can learn from them.


Many of my greatest teachers are not obvious ones. But they have wisdom to share if I pay attention.

Although the quickest glances will not show
He is the greatest salesman that I know

Old man river, he sings, more than slightly off key. If you buy a Streetwise magazine, I will not sing, he follows with a grin.

On the street corner near the Art Institute, a man sells Streetwise, a magazine that helps the homeless. Many vendors stand in one place holding the magazine out, hoping for someone to notice them. Not this man.

He paces back and forth along the intersection, engaging with the stream of pedestrians.

He smiles. He tells funny jokes. He gives people trivia. He makes people laugh.

I sit and watch him as he sells his magazines. He teaches me that the key to business, and to life, is human connection. He teaches me that success comes from putting yourself into your work and affecting people.

I bet he sells more magazines than anyone.

Behold the artist of the railway line
Making sure his train always runs on time

Doors close, and the train takes off. Buildings fly by as the conductor pushes the ‘L’ to its limit. There’s a connecting train at the next station, and he’s doing everything he can to catch it.

Our train glides into the station. The connecting train sits with the doors open. We caught it.

Have a nice day, everyone, says the conductor.

He is the artist of run 813 – giving his heart and soul to his work. Whenever I catch his train, it makes my day.

He teaches me the power of courtesy – greeting people, holding doors open, and thanking his passengers. The little touches are easy to do, but have a massive effect.

He teaches me to be helpful. It’s not his job to announce what’s happening with the delay, but everyone appreciates it.

He teaches me that it’s not the job description that matters – it’s the attitude you give to your work. Train conductor is not a glamorous work, but he makes it so.

Thank you for riding the red line today. Have a wonderful weekend.

I know a man with a dog and a hat
It is so nice with him to pause and chat

I step out the back door of our building on my way to run an errand. A man passes by, walking with his dog. He pauses and says hello. We chat for a few moments, discussing the beauty of the day.

He teaches me to acknowledge and appreciate the moments of beauty around me. If it is a beautiful day, say so. Enjoy it.

He teaches me to be friendly and kind. Human interaction makes life wonderful.

He teaches me to walk – to get away from the confines of my apartment and enjoy the fresh and beautiful air.

I continue on my way with a smile.

With kind farewell he sends me on my way
I’ll be sure to return another day

Good to see you again, buddy. How are you doing today? He makes me feel welcome.

He’s the owner of Morse Fresh Market, the neighborhood grocery store. I am more than happy to shop here.

He teaches me to greet everyone – to make people welcome.

I watch as he interacts with his staff and goes throughout the store. When one cashier is struggling with a lot of groceries, he comes over and helps. He picks up the empty shopping baskets and returns them to their place by the door. He treats everyone with respect.

He teaches me how to lead. Don’t ask someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. Lead by example.

Although her main job is to cut my hair
The tales she tells makes me glad to be there

Passing by the old, squeaky barber pole, I take my seat in the comfy chair. The barber greets me with her big and welcoming smile.

A trim, please, I ask.

As she cuts my hair we exchange stories. I laugh at the funny photos on the mirror. Lose weight fast, get a haircut, says one of them. She tells about the big meals she’s going to cook for the holiday weekend. We joke about her bright pink wig. She wears it just to be silly.

She teaches me to enjoy work. Have fun. Don’t be too serious.

When the cut is done, she offers a hot towel. The warmth feels good no matter how hot it is outside.

She teaches me to pay attention to the details – to do the extras that make people feel special. Be nice to people. Be helpful. They’ll pay you back in abundance.

The haircut is a good one.

There are so many smart people around
Their fine examples speak with wisdom sound

Like success, wisdom comes from unexpected places.


What about you? Who are some of the people you’ve learned from?


I can learn much from him. I made this photo in South Africa.