Having an Open Mind

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall leans on a water station during a break at NFL football training camp in
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall leans on a water station during a break at NFL football training camp in Latrobe, Pa., Tuesday, July 31, 2012. Mendenhall is on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from a knee injury incurred last season. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

One of my favorite things to do is going to the bookstore. When I'm walking through a bookstore or a library, I feel like a kid at a candy factory!

Being around so many different books and so many different titles, you can feel the variety of great ideas coupled with beautiful experiences, just screaming out at you, begging for an attentive ear.

As I walk up and down the aisles, and through the walls of books, I wish that I could be that ear. I wish that I could spend time with all of these stories, because my main goal in life is to learn everything. I know that is not very realistic, however I genuinely enjoy learning and taking the time to understand the truest meaning of things. I put that same effort into trying to understand people. The people close to me, people I may come into contact with, and also people I've never met -- be they in different parts of the country or on the other side of the world. I earnestly try to understand everyone's story, none excluded.

I understand that I am just one man, and this is just my point of view, but I believe that we live in a very self-focused, self-promotional and -- I hate to say it -- narcissistic culture. Often times we are too interested in talking about ourselves, justifying ourselves and selling ourselves. We're interested in just about anything that has to do with us!

Granted, we should all be proud of who we are. When I talk to kids, a point that I emphasize is to understand who you are and be proud of it. Having knowledge of your history is key to a bright future. However I think our pride becomes a problem because our natural tendency is to side with people who think like us, act like us and agree with us. At the same time we push away people who disagree with us, challenge us, question what we believe, or just don't see things the way that we do. We often have the attitude that even if a person didn't grow up in the same neighborhood, with the same parents, and share the same religious and political background as me, they should see things exactly the way that I do because I'm right basically 95 percent of the time! It may sound ridiculous, but is our mentality really very far from that?

The problem with having such a closed mind is that nothing can ever get in! So in your own mind, where some of us never consider the possibility that we are wrong, you will actually remain correct most if not all of the time. But when we're not open to learning something new or hearing a different perspective, we can think one thing and actually be dangerously far off.

I believe that anyone who has ever drawn breath has at one point or another felt like they were misunderstood; or that people don't really fully and truly get who you are. I certainly know that I have been misunderstood. No one likes that feeling. And if at this time you can recall that feeling, you can probably remember it being a very lonely and empty place. Just maybe at that time, you wished that someone would stop for just a second, to try to see how you feel; that someone would just consider your point of view.

How often have we been on the other side of this? How often are we the ones too selfish and too focused on ourselves to empathize with someone who isn't us? I would bet that many of us have been in that spot in life more times than we would realize. It's in that state of thinking that we have trouble understanding the full scope of the issues that we face.

If we're being honest with ourselves, that alone can make you wonder, 'what else could we be wrong about'?

I appreciate you guys taking the time to read my thoughts, as I enjoy sharing them with you. An idea is a powerful thing. If we can continue to share in them, then the world will change. Lets make it for the better!