Wisdom Through Interest in Others


This weekend’s “Review” section in the Wall Street Journal was a bit of a guide for living.  Yesterday, I highlighted the method behind Leondardo da Vinci’s genius.  Gerald F. Seib’s instructions for breaking out of the “Groupthink of Washington” offers additional direction.  In particular, his mention of Peter Robinson caught my eye:

Peter Robinson, then a junior White House speechwriter, composed the famous [“tear down this wall”] line. How could he dare such a thing, knowing that his elders and betters would consider it too provocative? “I did original reporting,” he says. “I had gone to the wall. Above all, I had sat down in West Berlin with a bunch of West Berliners. I asked them, ‘I’ve been told you’ve gotten used to the wall. Is that true?’ It wasn’t…I like to think I got out of the Washington bubble.”

This anecdote brought to mind something Mike Stopa said on a recent Harvard Lunch Club podcast.  Stopa (whose podcast appears on Ricochethad met with Robinson (who cofounded the site) while in the latter’s area of California, and he remarked how much interest Robinson took in him and his interests.

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Listening to Robinson’s own podcast and watching his Uncommon Knowledge interviews, one gets the sense that this is a deep and genuine trait of his, and it’s worth emulating.  As Seib goes on to suggest:

[Humility is] especially important in Washington, where impressing others with how much you know sometimes gets in the way of finding out what they know.

Of course, outside of the Washington bubble, we have opportunity to know that this problem is definitely not limited to D.C.

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