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“The electricity in my teahouse was cut off this week (my neighbor/shoe store owner pointed to the cut wires when I was confused about the light situation.)…but as my other neighbor told me as I was sitting kinda in the dark in my teahouse, “2 years!” That’s right 2 years to learn how to pay bills in-person and keep the electricity flowing.
#knowbetterdobetter #thehustle…” (FB status 1/25/17)

I have never been the smartest person in the room. I’m usually surrounded by smart people of all races/nationalities/gender/sexuality/religion. Even my students — from the young Chinese students online to the adult bankers of the Chilean national bank — teach me knew things about their cultures and their experience with life.

I’m cool with that, too. No big ego here.

But what has been slowly infiltrating my work & personal spaces is the “I’m the smartest person here” syndrome.

It really started with the Trump victory. And the outrage that people felt over his surprised victory. As expected an easy scapegoat was needed to burden the blame for Americans voting for this type of man. The word “ignorance” was used often to describe people who didn’t vote in the same manner as the speaker. I was directly called “ignorant” by a Facebook “friend.”  I was also called “sexist” by someone on FB because I said Hillary didn’t sell herself well and that is why she lost. (Then I asked if I had missed something since leaving abroad and receiving my Graduate Certificate in Gender Studies in 2005. No response.) Emotions were high and a vulnerable slash of humanity was exposed.

I understood this. But what I don’t understand is the continual “ignorance” label of people who don’t fully agree with a speaker. Also the over aggressive  communication via Facebook when someone stands in disagreement with an idea (It’s that “Internet courage” my friend tells me.) This is problematic. There is no community building when conversations are shut down because someone feels “I’m smarter than you are.” The only way I know how to push back against this “ignorance” breakdown of communication is to understand I’m not the smartest person in every conversation that I have with others.

I watch so many videos about successful entrepreneurs, and many of them talk about having a desire to learn more, to grow, to expand their knowledge of the world. Some big CEOs go off for a month or so to just think and read. (I hope to get to this point some day. I did take two weeks in between moving from Caranqui-Ibarra to Otavalo to think about the new businesses that I were about to create.) Hence, they are saying, “I don’t know everything, and I am willing to learn more to gain more knowledge about the people and cultures of the world.”

A reminder that life is a process of growing and learning was that my lights in my teahouse were cut off this week.  There were miscommunication and misunderstanding in who would pay the lights in my teahouse as there are multiple tenants in my building. After two days with no lights/electricity, I reflected on the situation. What did I learn from getting my lights cut off? I learned I’m no longer “playing teahouse.” I have a real business and I need to get organized and create a system/process for paying bills and keeping receipts. I also need to fully understand the societal norms of the community in which I operate. I need to learn and listen from other members because they are surely smarter about the way of life in Otavalo. If I want to truly have an international tea franchise, I must work smarter and learn from all who have valuable lessons/info to share.

As they say, “It’s not a mistake if you learn something…” So don’t fear not being the smartest person in the room. Fear feeling like you know everything and no one can add to your knowledge because if you have this “I’m smarter than you” feeling, you surely cannot grow into that successful entrepreneur that is the goal.

#PlayTimeIsOver #TheHustleIsReal