Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for. – Socrates

What does that mean?
Everyone has experiences. Some write them down in a manner that is useful to others. Some write books about what happened. Others write books about how to achieve something that they were able to do. And there are those who write to explain what they tried and how poorly it worked for them.

In each case, we are standing on the shoulders of others, to see farther (to take a little liberty with a quote from Sir Isaac Newton). Hopefully we can select books written by the giants in their fields, so that we might see as far as possible. But it helps to learn quickly from the experience of others.

Why is self-improvement important?
To me, self-improvement is part of life. I believe that when we stop learning, stop improving, we also stop living to our fullest potential. We start to coast, and then we start to slide backwards. Your opinion might be different, but self-improvement is still very useful in life.

To continue to improve, I try to read. Sometimes it’s on the internet, sometimes it’s real books. But I try to find people who are outstanding in their field, and pick up some of what they figured out. I try to imitate their better results and avoid their less beneficial results.

Where can I apply this in my life?
How often do you get the exact same challenge (difficulty, problem) showing up in your life? I don’t think I ever have. Each time I am greeted by an obstacle, I find it to be different in some way. Each is new and unique and requires a unique solution to overcome.

There is a famous quote that talks about self-improvement:

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius

We have already discussed method three: experience with Benjamin Franklin, and method one: reflection (although I called it contemplation) with Marcus Aurelius. In this post, we talk about method two: imitation. In this quote, the imitation comes from reading the books of others, so that you might learn from them.

This is the primary reason Benjamin Franklin opened the first public lending library, so that all might be able to read and learn from the triumphs and tragedies of the great authors. Prior to Ben’s public library, you had to know someone who owned the book, and then convince them to lend it to you. Books were expensive (Amazon.com didn’t exist back then) and often hard to come by.

Socrates figured out (a very long time ago) that there was much to learn from books, and in this quote, he urges us to improve ourselves in this manner. With the price of books today, it’s hard to come up with an excuse to not read and learn. Some of the out-of-copyright books can be found for free at Project Gutenberg, and that’s a hard price to beat!

With the availability of books at today’s modern libraries, even rare or hard to find books can usually be found in a matter of days or weeks through the library network. And with the barriers to publishing diminishing every day, there are more and more books on a greater number of topics every day. Sometimes the trick is finding the best author and most appropriate book. We live in such tough times.

I’ve been beating around the bush for a while, so I’ll just say it. You use this saying in your life by picking a topic that is of interest to you, then find a book and read it. Find it for free online or at the library, or buy it from a new or used bookstore. Then grab a snack and a beverage, and go find someplace pleasant and read.

Expanding your mind can be simple and easy. I’ve focused on books here, but it applies to magazines (home improvement, carpentry, automotive, science and technical are my favorites) just as well. Find something and read it. You just might learn something!

From: Twitter, @AncientProverbs
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/socrates122574.html
Photo by Ed Yourdon

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