"You're putting the cart before the horse!" said my 3rd-grade language arts teacher. We've all grown up learning and hearing various idioms like biting the bullet, breaking a leg, or beating around the bush. Growing up learning Mandarin, my Chinese teachers would always teach me new idioms and say that if I used them it'll make me seem wiser. Even though these idioms and proverbs come from a different culture than my own, I can still apply them to my own life. Out of all the idioms that I've come across, these are six of the ones that I think we can all learn from.
1. 三人行必有我师: If three walk together, one of them can teach me something
This is my favorite idiom of all time. It comes from the story of Confucius seeing three students while walking down the road. As one of the biggest Chinese philosophers and teachers, you would think that Confucius didn't have much to learn others. That couldn't be further from this truth because what Confucius is trying to say is that while he sees these three students walking down the street he realizes that each one could teach him something. I've applied this my own life by realizing that I can learn something from everyone. Everyone has something unique to contribute to the world and oftentimes we don't take the time to get to know other people and their stories. Sometimes it's better to listen first, talk later, and get to know people from different backgrounds.
2. 知之為知之, 不知為不知, 是知也: You know what you know, you don't know what you don't know- this is knowledge
Aside from using this as motivation before taking a test, I've used this to help grow my own intellectual curiosity. I use this as a reminder that I shouldn't be afraid to ask questions because the only way to learn is by asking questions. I've found that when I ask people questions that they are usually more than willing to help me learn. For example, I was in a finance networking session and I didn't even know what "sell-side" meant so I asked and the company rep was happy to explain it to me. Also, I found out later that my friend had the same question but didn't want to ask it. Long story short, don't be afraid to ask questions!
3. 脚踏实地: To have one's feet planted on solid ground
This idiom can be applied to most of our lives because it talks about how we need to work hard and be ambitious, but how we need to stay grounded and ensure that our goals are realistic. I had a moment in high school where I tried to balance way too many classes and extracurricular activities, and it ultimately led me to have a mental breakdown. This idiom is a good reminder that we need to be realistic with ourselves. It is okay to dream and want to challenge yourself, but in the end, we need to be realistic and understand our capabilities so that we don't push ourselves too hard.
4. 顺其自然: To let nature take its course
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I spend so much time stressing over things that are out of my control. We expend so much time and effort into trying to change things instead of accepting things the way that they are. Whether it is getting one bad grade on a paper, stressing out over what to do over the summer, or trying to get someone to like you, we all just need to realize that a lot of what we stress out about we won't even remember in the future.
5. 千里送鹅毛, 礼轻情意重: Travel a thousand miles to bestow a goose feather
I try to relate this idiom to the friendships I've made over the years. I have some of my close friends who don't go to my school and live in Charlotte and Durham, or farther places like Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Canada. Even with all this social media, maintaining friendships can be hard because we're all so busy. Sometimes showing that you appreciate your friends can be seen by handwriting them cards or giving them thoughtful gifts. No matter what someone gives you, it's always the thought behind it that counts.
6. 读万卷书不如行万里路: Knowledge comes from books and from experience of the world
This idiom directly translates to read thousands of books and travel thousands of miles. There is no better way of learning than by doing, and that's why I love traveling. If you ever get the opportunity to travel, you definitely should. Universities tend to offer lots of financial aid and grants that can sometimes even let you travel for free.
Whether it is reconnecting with old friends, going out of your comfort zone to talk to new people, or asking more questions, I think that we can all learn something from these idioms.