Here to Learn

One time I had to do a presentation about branding.
I sat down with my little slide deck and someone yelled out, 
"I'm very familiar with all this from my own experience at X company."
Keep in mind this is just the beginning of the we are literally only on Slide 1.
I mistook the enthusiasm for joy at my undoubtedly brilliant forthcoming oration.
Really the person was about to hijack the entire talk, with a parallel narrative about their experience, their framework, their lessons learned and so on.
I wasn't in a position to say, "hey there, sit down and shut up" because the person was fairly senior in connection with me. And it wasn't like I was there to do a TED talk.
So I sat back and let the senior person do the talking. And fumed, a little bit, but you have to know your place.
...and then about ten years later, I found myself sitting in the senior person's shoes. 
Someone else was doing the presentation, someone younger and less experienced than me, and the subject was also branding. 
Also at about Slide 1, during the introductory remarks, I heard something that I, the "knowledgeable" I, disagreed with.
And I held my tongue at the moment, bit my knuckles till the end, until of course my pent-up ego erupted.
With a "question" that was really a mountain of feedback designed to say, nothing much more valuable than...
You and I think differently about the same thing.
Reflecting on these experience I understand the lesson, though it's difficult as hell to learn.
Better to shut up and be the student most of the time. 
Even if you think you know it already.
The experience of being quiet - of quieting yourself - is what makes you wise.
Dedicated to my wise husband Andy Blumenthal.
All opinions my own. Photo by Tulane Public Relations via Wikimedia (Creative Commons).

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