Do this if you want to live long.
What do the following have in common: Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs? They were not nice people. At least there was a point in their lives when they were terrible people.
But no one remembers that. Because no one remembers it, not many even know those things about them. What do people know about them? What can they remember?
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We remember that they were super smart or to put it in a simpler term, super knowledgeable.
Knowledge has a way of enduring in such a way that it dwarfs your faults. Your weaknesses just diminish and fade over the years in the sight of people. Only knowledge does that – not power or riches.
This brings me to the fact that for a long time, people have compared the influence of knowledge, wealth and power.
Which is more influential? Which lasts longer?
How I wish there was a definite way of measuring the endurance or influence of each throughout human existence so that we could answer which is more useful. Actually, there is.
Micheal H. Hart’s book “The 100 Most Influential People in History“ sought to answer that question.
While his work was to answer the question of who was more influential, he also answered what is more enduring. If you look at the list, you would see that all the top 10 people on his list have two things in common.
But let me first list them as they appear in his book so that you can extract the common thread yourself.
Number one on the list is Prophet Muhammad ( may peace be upon him). Number two is Isaac Newton. Followed by Jesus Christ (may peace be upon him.)
Number four is Buddha, then Confucius (the Chinese philosopher from whose work other Chinese philosophies flow – including works of some Western philosophers. Number six is Paul of Tarsus (who made a crucial contribution to Christianity), then Cai Lun the Chinese inventor of the paper and paper-making process.
Number eight is Gutenberg who invented the printing press. Before the German’s invention, if you wanted to write a copy of a book, you would have to copy it by hand. Which took time and effort. But his invention made it possible to make thousands of copies almost instantly.
Then we have Christopher Columbus at number nine. His contribution to the world that earned him a place on this list was that he opened the door to another world for the Europeans. And that happened to be very impactful to the rest of the world.
Number 10 is Albert Einstein who was relatively successful in explaining the laws by which the heavenly bodies operate. We learned a lot and applied his theories for many crucial interventions.
Therefore, we have four religious scholars, four scientists or technologists, one philosopher and one explorer.
Now, what do these people have in common?
Notice that there is no king on the list. Except for Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who was both a religious leader and a secular ruler. But even Prophet Muhammad didn’t claim himself a king or carried himself with the airs of a monarch: “I’m like you but a messenger,” he often told his followers.
So what do these people have in common?
Knowledge from God, knowledge of a new world, knowledge of science and knowledge of technology. They are all united by knowledge.
This means that no matter how important or rich or powerful an individual is, knowledge triumphs over them all.
At least we can see from that list that knowledge is more enduring than the other two.
When you give three children power, riches and knowledge in equal measure, all of them would be instantly transformed. You would hardly recognize them.
However, after five years, take away what you have given each. You would see another immediate transformation in that only two of them crumble.
The rich man the king would be completely unrecognizable. But you would find that you wouldn’t be able to take away the knowledge from the scholar. You would have to kill him to do that.
Such is the power of learning.
But I said that the top 10 on Hart’s list had two things in common. What is the second factor?
They shared their knowledge.
The religious men on the list shared the knowledge by preaching to the people. The scientists shared their knowledge by inventing useful rules or machines.
So the insight from all this is that knowledge shared endures. There is no point in accumulating knowledge when the world doesn’t benefit from it.
In other words, the only knowledge that means anything, that is useful, is the knowledge that benefits others. To be clear, you can have knowledge stored as huge as Mount Everest, but if you don’t make it known, if you don’t use it to solve problems or share it, you may die unknown, unsung and underappreciated.
Therefore, your target is to accumulate knowledge – a lot of it. Then share it – all of it. Then you would live long.