Lesson 88: Keep an open mind

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, August 26, 2010

Minds are like parachutes–they only function when open.

Sir James Dewar

You have a built-in advantage here. Young people are usually open-minded by nature; the trick is to stay that way as you age.

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Politicians like to accuse one another of flip-flopping: changing positions on an important issue. A flip-flopper, the reasoning goes, is wishy-washy and indecisive, changing his mind just to please the shifting mood of voters. While this charge is sometimes true its no shock that a politician would pander for votes it doesnt necessarily follow that changing ones mind is a bad thing.

Take George Wallace for example. While Governor of Alabama during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, he famously stood on the steps of a University of Alabama building in a failed attempt to prevent the first black students from attending class. His battle cry of segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever came to symbolize opposition to equal rights for African Americans.

Through three terms as Governor of Alabama and three runs at the U.S. Presidency, George Wallace was the face of old-line racism in America. But George Wallace changed his mind.

In the early 1980s, he publicly announced that his long-held views on race had been wrong. He apologized to black civil rights leaders. They apparently took him at his word, because he was elected Governor for a fourth time in 1982, winning the support of most of the states black voters. During that final term as Governor, he appointed a record number of blacks to state office.

You tell me: Is the George Wallace saga the story of a flip-flop or the opening of a mind?

I think the argument can be made that nothing new can

be accomplished without an open mind. The challenge is maintaining one as you grow older.

We each have our own lens through which we see the world. As we get older, we usually dont like to have that worldview threatened, so we tend to reject anything that doesnt fit. A closed mind can lead to a stale outlook and a grouchy disposition. An open mind gives you opportunities to learn and to appreciate other people and points of view. That can lead to a fresh outlook and sunny disposition. In short, an open mind can help keep you young.

Excerpted from The Graduates Book of Practical Wisdom: 99 Lessons They Cant Teach in School by C. Andrew Millard, published by Morgan James Publishing, available in bookstores and online. &opy; 2008 by C. Andrew Millard; all rights reserved. For more information visit www.wisegraduate.com.