As a child, I was an extreme introvert. Talking to people didn’t come easy to me at all. Not surprisingly, I hardly had any friends at school. My best—and perhaps only—friends were my stamp-collection, the radio and our pet dog.
After I left home and went to college in a distant city, I became less inhibited. Being forced to do many things myself, circumstances now compelled me to be more outgoing. Being exposed to people from diverse class, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, I grew more confident in relating with others. I still sometimes felt frightened, and even stuttered when speaking, and I still loved my own company. But, over the years, I became, I think, a rather good conversationalist.
These days, one of my pet passions is spending time with people from different walks of life, seeking to learn aspects of their life-story. What do they see as the purpose of life? Where do they think we have come into this world from? What keeps them going when things seem bleak? What are they passionate about? What gives them joy? How do they deal with various challenges that come their way? If they did something wrong, how, if at all, did they make amends for it? Who are their role models? Has anyone particularly inspired them? And so on…I love plying people with such questions and getting them to share bits of their life with me—because I feel my own life can be enriched from their insights and experiences.
We can gain a great deal from the lessons—both positive as well as negative—that we can learn from other people’s lives. Every person, no matter what his/her station in life—‘rich’ or ‘poor’, ‘famous’ or ‘ordinary’—is a fascinating story in himself/herself simply by the fact of being human and alive, a fact that unites all of humanity despite our various differences. And every such story is a valuable source of learning for our own self-improvement.
So, I’ve actually become quite a garrulous character now as I try not to miss any opportunity to ask people questions about life in general, and their life in particular. I’ve discovered that this is one of the most enriching ways to grow. And that’s why I think those who take no interest in learning about how others are handling their life—and one keeps meeting such people—miss out a great deal.
It is truly amazing how much wisdom and inspiration one can draw from listening to people reflect on how they have negotiated their life. Try it out and see for yourself!