Diamond Minds

You'll have to work for it, but knowledge is your best shot at success.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the November 2001 . Subscribe »

If you want to mine for diamonds, you have to dig deep to get to the valuable gems. It's the same with knowledge. You have to dig deep, go well beneath the surface, to come up with the most valuable information.

High achievers are on a quest for learning-a desire to build a foundation with the fundamentals and a passion for continuous improvement. I once heard an interview with Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines. When asked what it was like to be successful, he answered, "I don't know. I've got a long way to go yet-because once you start thinking you're a success, you go downhill." Peak performers always feel the need to reach higher and higher. They are in constant pursuit of the knowledge they need to make the climb.

To be successful, you must make a commitment to learning. Too many times we feel the need to learn something immediately, whether we learn it right or not. A few years ago, someone dared me to learn to play the violin, supposedly the most unforgiving instrument. I said I'd learn Mozart in a month (did you know "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" was written by Mozart?). I took a few lessons, then read a book that contradicted everything I'd learned. Then I met a violin-maker named Richard Menzel, who taught me that if you want to learn, you must start from the very beginning. He gave me this exercise: Hold the bow perpendicular to the strings, about a millimeter above them. Then draw the bow back and forth, making no sound, for about 15 minutes. Use your hand as a lever and focus on the perfection of each movement.

I resisted at first; I wanted to make music. But Menzel made me realize that without this fundamental skill, it would be impossible to reach the level of achievement I desired. His message was to train the brain to master each movement before you play.

That message applies to everything in life. Learn the fundamentals, then keep on learning more. The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know and how much more there is to know. As the writer John Wooden once said, "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."

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