Today’s post is from my friend, Dave Ursillo, who has an incredible outlook on life and approach to leadership. I have never asked anyone to guest post before, but Dave’s message was so resonant with me, I couldn’t help but share. Special thanks to Dave for the post!
“Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.” ~Lao Tsu, Tao te Ching
Life has gotten loud.
From the moment we wake up in the morning and until we finally drift off into sleep at night, we are bombarded by a nearly constant stream of noise, commotion and loudness.
We surround ourselves with noisy devices and a loud lifestyle: for me, my phone alarm wakes me up in the morning; I transition into some music on iTunes to start the day over coffee, varying between audio books and sports talk radio throughout most of my days. At night, television entertainment in the form of sitcoms and big sports games consumes the attention of my roommates and me.
But that’s not the only noise that has grown to consume every waking minute of our lives.
The Noise of Life
We’re also constantly bombarded by opinion and debate, judgement and disagreement.
In our opinion-rich culture, it’s not that these cornerstones of democratic rule and a choice-based capitalist system are intrinsically bad, but the constant stream of noisiness that has grown to consume our lives has created a dangerous social norm along with it: one that espouses the strength of loudness, the power of noise, and the idea that you (or your ideas, beliefs, lifestyle, etc.) are necessarily weak if you don’t defend them loudly.
As Lao Tsu espoused thousands of years ago in the quote above, quietness is more indicative of genuine knowledge and confidence than weakness or unintelligence. The same sentiment was echoed by writer Mark Twain (variations often attributed to Abraham Lincoln as well) centuries later when he said,
“Tis better to remain silent and appear a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”
It seems that the intrinsic value or strength of steadfastness in silence has transcended culture and time over the course of history.
However, especially in the mix of life’s increasing loudness today, a shared cultural understanding of the apparent value of loudness has developed. We’ve grown accustomed to assuming that loudness is naturally better than quiet; that noise competitively trumps silence:
- when you shout in a debate you’ll win, because being louder obviously means what you’re saying is better and makes more sense
- when you’re louder among a group of friends, you’re the more popular one because everyone else has no choice but to listen to you. And so on, and so on.
Lessons of an Introvert
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my two years of full-time writing and life-exploring at my blog, DaveUrsillo.com, is the intrinsic strength of silence and the power of learning from listening. For years and years of my life, I considered being rather introverted as a distinct disadvantage or weakness over being an alpha, extroverted personality.
Something about being extroverted seemed naturally stronger, more attractive, naturally better.
However, with time I’ve learned that being an introvert (and striving to avoid the “noise”) has provided me with a unique strength that outwardly expressive types often miss: the incredible value of listening to others and observing behaviors and motivations. I’ve even become adept at detecting the energy that others are emitting — beyond reading body language and the usual, “arms crossed means disengaged,” “furrowed brow reveals agitation” stuff that we gradually pick up on.
Indeed, through the strength of observant silence and the incredible learning tool of listening, I’ve been afforded the privilege to take special lessons to heart, genuinely learning and growing every single day that I live among people and society at large.
For you, whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, naturally boisterous or more quiet in demeanor, the lesson holds true: listening is a special tool for learning about people, this world, and even life itself.
Among the clutter of noise and the cultural belief that loudness is stronger than silence, strive to observe the power of quiet and inherent importance of listening as a learning tool in our lives. The more you come to observe it day to day, at home and at work, the more you will begin to nurture a greater knowledge and confidence in remaining still, remaining calm, and remaining quiet amid a world of commotion and noise.
Photo: Melvin Gaal
Dave Ursillo is a 25-year old professional writer, dreamer and life-explorer at his blog, DaveUrsillo.com. He writes to explore life, this world and its people. Dave is also a leadership speaker and the founder of the “Lead Without Followers” alternative-leadership movement (LeadWithoutFollowers.com).