Studying history gives you an advantage because human nature never changes.
5 min read
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When I was a child, my mom told me that studying history would greatly benefit me. My initial thought was, History is in the past — I need to focus on the future.
My young, arrogant mind didn't fully grasp what my mother meant until I realized one thing about her advice that brought everything together for me: Human nature never changes.
Probably everyone has heard the phrase, "History repeats itself," but most of us do not make the effort to investigate why this phrase is so often repeated.
In my estimation, the reason this phrase has become so commonplace is simple. While people might change, their nature does not. Understanding human nature gives you a massive advantage in business and in life because it enables you to emotionally connect with others. Understanding both human nature and history prepares you to act while others react.
History as a mentor
One of my favorite pieces of advice that I give to my interns and coaching clients is, "View history as a mentor."
In fact, history is the least expensive mentor, and easiest to access, that you can find. It used to be that in order to study history and human nature, you'd need to take a trip to the library. You needed a library card to get access; sometimes the books you were looking for were checked out; and other times, you had to pay late fees.
To study history today, all you need is a device with internet access and the ability to differentiate real history from “fake news.” You have more access to history than ever before, and you can use the past to help you drive your success going forward.
History shouldn’t be a mystery.
By studying your own history, you can better understand the mistakes you've made and how you attracted them to yourself in the first place. This will help raise your awareness. Heightened awareness can prevent you from making the same mistakes over and over, so you don't have to pay the “dummy tax” more than once.
You mustn’t make your mistakes into a habit; rather make a habit of analyzing your mistakes.
Besides studying your own background, also use history as a mentor by studying individuals who are in a position you want to be in or that have situational knowledge that you'd like to possess. Identify one or more successful people, living or dead, whose careers are attractive to you. Then research how their lives have unfolded. In doing this, you can learn from their journey, as well.
Three of my most influential mentors are Dr. Wayne Dyer, Teddy Roosevelt and Napoleon Hill. While I've never met them, just by having studied their histories and their work, I can access the strategies and principles that made them successful. I can also avoid falling into the same traps that they did, early on in their lives, simply by raising my awareness.
Now, with the advent of cellphones and laptops, accessing history is a snap. Applying history to your own life is the more difficult step.
Emotion and ego: Things to know
One of the things that limit us the most (and one of my favorite things to study) is the ego.
When you understand the needs of the ego, such as the need to be right, offended, superior, inferior or separate, you can better understand the ways that people will react in a given situation.
Once you understand the defense mechanisms and the patterns of the ego, it's much easier to figure out how to connect with others, emotionally. One of my favorite “ego tricks” that I put into play is being prepared to walk away from a deal. For many people, their ego cannot handle seeing a profitable deal disappear off the table, which makes this an important tool to have in negotiation.
There are even entire businesses based on ego! I cannot tell you how many award committees send emails notifying me that I've won some type of award, offering more trophies or longer article features for more money. When you don’t have a need to feel superior, these offers are not that big of a deal.
Human nature becomes second nature.
Studying human nature raises our awareness, helping us to better understand people's reaction in any given situation.
Look backward at yourself.
Look backward at your mentors.
Look backward at history and time.
In doing so, you will raise your perception, using the past to move forward in business.