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Albert Einstein’s 7 Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks

We often associate certain names to the virtue of excellence. Tiger Woods to the game of golf, Michael Jordan to the game of basketball and Pablo Picasso to painting. What if you had to name the genius of the 20th century? Without a doubt, Albert Einstein gets the nod.

Arguably, the smartest man ever born, Albert Einstein was average at best in his school years. He shunned certain classes for the mediocrity of education. He mocked some teachers who were irritated by his lack of obedience. His Greek grammar teacher, Joseph Degenhart, achieved immortality in the history books through insisting that “nothing would ever become of you.” Later, when Einstein was told it would be best if he left the school, Degenhart had explained, “Your presence in the class destroys the respect of the students.” Disgusted by the rote teaching, he quit high school at the age of fifteen. The rest is history.

This man of great scientific feats also was a man of a noble heart and uncanny wisdom that he gained from the school of hard knocks. He often struggled to pay bills until the age of 26 when he wrote three papers that revolutionized our world.

Lesson # 1  Invest in the success of others.

In his famous essay, the world as I see it, Albert Einstein wrote, “ A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…”

Those who succeed in life understand that success comes to those who make conscious effort everyday to give back to the friends, family and the community. As silly as it sounds, when we invest our life energy to ensure the success of others, our karma ensures our own success. Blogging is a great example. I have found that when I take time to uplift other bloggers by reading their articles, I surely get pleasantly surprised by countless bloggers who take time to visit my blog and to comment on my articles.

Lesson # 2  Never stop growing.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”

Albert Einstein’s dislike for the traditional schooling never had any influence on his passion for learning. His life is a remarkable example for the mankind. A life of solitude and self-learning made him a scientist of the century. He passionately explored the nature and its vastness to seek answers to mysteries that intrigued his mind through out his life. He felt religious not in a traditional sense but in the sense that rekindled his curiosity to know the wonders of the nature only to benefit mankind. In our life we learn by meeting different people, by exploring our ideas to solve the common issues and by relentless desire to improve our way of life. Personally, I have learned the lessons of life only after I left the school.

Lesson # 3  Your life is limited by limits of your thoughts.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

We are educated to consider life with a logic. We learn how to get from A to B with excellence but we equally abhor thoughts of charting our own course to get from A to B. We are taught to excel at knowledge that already exists. We are infused with the fear of self-doubt to even consider an alternate path. History has shown that those who contributed the most to the mankind were the ones who defied the knowledge of masses. They dared to imagine what was considered impossible at the time. In the 6th century BC Greek mathematician Pythagoras said that earth is round; but few agreed with him. Greek astronomer Aristarchos said in the 3rd century BC that earth revolves around the sun; but the idea was not accepted.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.“
~ Confucius

Lesson # 4  Simplify everything you do.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Often those prestigious institutions publish papers with laborious details and content aimed to disparage most people. Life is simple and those who succeed in life definitely master the art of simplicity in everything that they passionately do. Warren Buffet was once asked why he is not investing in Microsoft despite being a close friend of Bill Gates. He answered that I don’t invest if I don’t understand the underlying business. The answer of the genius investor speaks volume about the importance of knowledge that he can transpire to his investors in simple words.

Few years ago I read a memoir of one of the most brilliant and prolific authors, James Michener. In his memoir, The World Is My Home, author revealed the secrets of writings from his vantage point. One sentence left a profound influence in my mind. He wrote:“Good writing…consists of trying to use ordinary words to achieve extraordinary results.”

All of our wisdom and knowledge dies a horrible death if we do not possess the deftness of expressing our knowledge in simple words to the rest of the world.

Lesson # 5 Live a simple Life.

In his famous essay, the world as I see it, Albert Einstein wrote, “The trite objects of human efforts — possessions, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.”

One of the myths of our society is that “more” will make us “happier”. We invest our life energy to possess lifeless possessions. We are educated to foster consumption with the mantra of – “The more, the better.” We are educated to have a great job. A great job requires luxuries to fulfill our outlandish desire to impress others. Before we realize, we mortgage our freedom to the possessions that bring more sorrow and inner grief in a vain hope to show off to the masses. Life of happiness and inner peace rests upon the virtue of simplicity. Our efforts in life should be directed towards saving our life energy and towards using our life energy that can bring eternal happiness to ourselves. Seldom our schools teach the value of living a simple life. Seldom our schools teach value of living within our means. The current sub prime mortgage crisis is an awakening lesson for all of us. It’s madness to chase goals of accumulating more possessions. We often find ourselves in same despair once we achieve our goal by the feelings of not possessing what others have. It’s an endless loop of self-pity. Life of contentment fills our hearts with eternal happiness.

Lesson # 6 Never quit!

“It’s not that I’m so smart , it’s just that I stay with problems longer .”

Our traditional education rewards those who succeed in exhibiting their knowledge of books. Students with power of memory rather than creativity are rewarded for their stupendous bookish knowledge. Our dislike for failure comes from the years of schooling that abhors failures. We limit our thoughts without knowing the fake reality of knowledge that restricts our imagination with the fear of failures. Albert Einstein’s passion for the physics and his dislike for the traditional schooling allowed him to become the greatest scientist of the 20th century. History has countless examples of the successful people who never ceased to imagine what intrigued their mind. Success comes to those in abundance who dare to imagine and solve the mysteries of the nature to benefit the mankind. These brave people understand the value of failure to gain knowledge that can lead to the peaks of success.

Lesson # 7 We are creatures of our values and character

“Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”

We learn to succeed in life. In fact we have idolized the success to an extent that every bookstore carries plethora of books on success. We flock seminars that sell success themes to our feeble minds. Our culture adores success to an extent that thoughts of failure shakes our strongest will to imagine and try to explore new ideas. The reality is a far outcry from our fake belief. My father failed in business many times in his life. He always bounced back from the lows. He credited his resilience to the virtue of value and character. He faced many obstacles in life, but he never had lack of compassion and support from his friends as they had unshakable faith in my father’s value and character. In today’s world, “get quick rich” mantra shuns the virtues of value and character. We all know that a man without values and character is doomed to fail miserably in life.

“I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully,have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.”
~Albert Einstein, the world as I see it

So, from the school of hard knocks, Albert Einstein taught us to work selflessly for others, to never stop growing our mind, to love our imagination, to make our thoughts simple enough for others to understand, to live life of simplicity, to never quit no matter what it takes to succeed and above all, live life of highest values and character. Are you a graduate of Einstein’s school of hard knocks? I’d love to know…

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Comments (2)

[…] We take pride in hanging our diplomas at our office wall to impress other book smarts. Only street smarts know that education begins as you walk on the street on your own. They are intelligent, observant […]

[…] His words touched my heart. These were the words I wish the book smart professor vouched when I met him. Unfortunately, there is no college for the street smarts. You have to learn from the school of hard knocks. […]