Everyone I meet is in some way my superior. In that I learn from him.

Proper attribution: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Alternate versions: Every man I meet, rather than “everyone”.
Status: Misquoted either way.

This does sound like it could be hiding in the works of Shakespeare somewhere. It’s a good thought for a character to have, very humble. However, it’s just not Shakespeare.


Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this in his letters
, in the late 1800’s:

Shall I tell you the secret of the true scholar?
It is this : Every man I meet is my master
in some point, and in that I learn of him.

It’s funny how the meaning of this quote changes depending on the subtlety of how you say it. The way Emerson wrote it, the “I learn from him” is like an added benefit. Every man is my master in some point, period, one thought, and because that it is true, I have the benefit that I can learn something. But if you were to change it and say that “every man is my master in that I learn something from him” that flips it, now you’re saying that the learning came first, and it is because of the learning that this person is your superior. That’s quite different. You need to keep it as two separate thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Everyone I meet is in some way my superior. In that I learn from him.

  1. Max Gazeley says:

    Wonderful!
    The antithesis of arrogance.
    This should be taught in every kindergarten till the end of time.

  2. D Theodore says:

    Do you think you could provide the actual citation (book title, chapter, edition, page number?) for this quotation? Thanks, D

  3. This is a biblical thought: ‘but with humility, consider the others superior to oneself’ – Philippians 2:3. (circa. 61 CE).

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