4 Things I've Learned About Understanding

Understanding is not a linear process. You can’t add A + B = understanding, it just doesn’t work like that. Rather, understanding is a closed loop. You have to understand yourself to understand others and in turn understanding others better helps you understand yourself.

The wisest and most successful people realize that they always have more to learn, and thus are constantly traveling that loop growing wiser with each revolution. Meanwhile foolish people find themselves misunderstood and frustrated, but never stop to think about others.

On my Art of People Project journey I expected this first step to be the easiest, but I found myself adequately challenged to say the least.

4 Things I’ve Learned

Interestingly these four things also form a closed loop. Once you step out of your comfort zone you must listen, and then you must genuinely reflect, and when you apply that reflection you change, which forces you out of your comfort zone. The cycle continues…

1--Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Part of being comfortable is the confidence that we have all the answers. Since none of us actually have all the answers (no, not even you), sometimes we have to be uncomfortable to grow.

The truth is, as a friend recently pointed out, growth hurts sometimes. That said, understanding yourself and others is the foundation of all personal growth and professional success. We simply must force ourselves to be uncomfortable.


There is an old saying, “There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. So we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Truly listening--listening with the intent of understanding, rather than waiting for a turn to speak, is transformative.

We all know what it’s like to feel misunderstood. We know when someone really isn’t listening to us. But do we learn from that? In a world that simply won’t shut up, there is nothing more endearing than someone who actually listens. Be that person.


All of this is rather pointless without a little soul-searching. In the wise words of Ice Cube, “You’ve gotta check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

Although most of us are our own worst critic, we also tend to have a special skill of deluding ourselves. We have to pause, dig deep, and get real with ourselves. What can we learn? How can we be better? In our heart of hearts most of us know, we have to pause a moment and reflect.


I’ve noticed that most people are preoccupied with change, well, at least in other people. Changing ourselves is another matter. Sometimes we aren’t self-aware enough to realize the need for change, but if we step out of our comfort zone, truly listen, and pause to reflect, the most natural next step is change.

There simply is no growth without change. Our ability to change is one of the most fascinating human characteristics. At any moment we have the power to re-write the story of our life. We are the architects of our own destiny.

It All Comes Full Circle

Change will invariably pull us out of our comfort zone, and the cycle will continue.

I’m pretty sure that one of the most ridiculous things that I’ve believed was that success was a linear process. I really thought that if I did the “right” things, worked hard, got an education, gave back, and so on, that somehow success was a given. I thought it was something like this:

Good behavior + hard work + education + volunteerism = success & happiness

Imagine my surprise when I did all those things and found myself far from what I understood to be successful. Turns out all of it is a process, the wheel keeps turning and we have to keep stretching and growing. No one ever “arrives” at success.

Hopefully we all learn it sooner than later, but understanding is a key element of an ever-moving process and the successful are the ones that know they’ll never arrive anywhere because they have to keep moving.


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I’m @GrazianiTJ on Twitter and I’ll be using the hashtag #ArtOfPeopleProject, and invite you to join me in your own project.