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“Guru,” “expert” and “pro” are titles thrown around too easily in business, technology, social media and everything in between. What’s missing, whether these titles are self-proclaimed or well-deserved, is credit — lots of credit — given to the student-like characteristics that got these masters where they are. After extensive research on Netflix watching Karate Kid and superhero movies, as well as other epic films, I’ve found that the true gurus acknowledge their life pursuit as a student.

The term “guru” conjures images of Buddhist monks who spend decades living on misty mountaintops, meeting villagers only at sunrise. I’m highly intrigued by these people — not because they know so much, but because they think they know so little.

Learning and understanding lead to a realization that there is still a side of the mountain that needs to be better understood. Yet, for some strange reason, our own education, experience and ego can hold us back from really becoming the lifelong learner who could answer the deeper questions at hand.

The Wisdom of Foolishness

“Stay hungry, stay foolish,” Steve Jobs famously said in a commencement speech at Stanford University.

Don’t get me wrong; I respect titles. But the most interesting people don’t seem to notice they have one. They are hungry enough to continually seek a deeper understanding of the problem, as opposed to an expedient answer. They are the ones in constant learning mode.

But as soon as they ascend to the next level, society feels an immediate need to rename them. We designate them as gurus, as if their journey is complete. How foolish of us!

Joy of the Endless Journey

What if we value them for what they truly are instead? They are students, individuals who relentlessly seek to understand a deeper level of the problem and find an answer that has never been found.

These people work hard, conduct research and believe that there is always a more efficient, more effective way. Perhaps they even include the age old practice of meditation and reflection into their day.

These activities can reveal striking truths about all of us, regardless of our level of “guru.” They help us evaluate what worked today, what needs to change and why.

Turns out all the real gurus, experts and pros are just students in disguise.

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15 Comments

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  1. Tim Guest

    I totally agree with you on titles and labels. Having had involvement in the digital industry where there are “Directors” for strategy, creativity and more: see this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18983009 I have even heard of some experts calling themselves (insert skill here) Ninja.

    Titles or labels have a place but some of the most impressive and influential people I know, I don’t even know their job titles!

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    1. Sylvia Santelli Post author

      The ninjas! I forgot about that one. There is definitley a balance to trying to express your knowledge base and running to give yourself the loftiest title you can find. I find myself weary of anyone who thinks there is nothing left to be learned. Dangerours grounds to walk.

      Loved the article Tim.

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      1. Tim Guest

        I have called myself an SAP Business One “Specialist” before, meaning I specialise in this area but am by no means an expert!

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  2. Kumar Akshat

    Yeah, probably these words should be defined as “students who know much more than other students” or in other words ‘super students’. 🙂

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  3. Steve Rumsby

    Turns out all the real gurus, experts and pros are just students in disguise.

    Apparently Aristotle said something like – “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” I certainly find that every answer I find comes with a whole batch of fresh questions. If society’s idea of a “guru” is somebody who knows everything then, for me at least, the more I know the further from being a guru I feel!

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  4. Kumar Mayuresh

    Everyone should remain student or Super Student 🙂 , The day people become

    😈 Ego-Guru, Ego-expert or Ego-pro 😈

    — they are finished. 😉

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      1. Kumar Mayuresh

        Unfortunately Tim I have seen those kind of people and who are quite “over confident” in there current state of knowledge and Ego, and I feel sorry for them…!!

        I would say :

        Any person who says they do not need to learn more is KILLING themselves!

                           

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  5. Marcia Walker

    Sylvia:  Great post!  A great mentor taught me early on to be a perpetual student.  In addition, I have recently begun a meditation practice.  I always thought that was just a CRAZY idea – who has time to meditate!?!?! – but I find that it really helps me get new perspective on challenges, and approach problems in creative ways.  Plus it’s relaxing!

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