Wise Words

Experience teaches only the teachable.” -Aldous Huxley

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”  -Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See

“Careful- we don’t want to learn anything from this.” -Calvin & Hobbes

We learn from experience- our own or the experience of others- and the learning is in the evaluation. Within that, we can learn from our success to an extent– but even “those things that got you to the top, aren’t the things that will keep you there”. At the risk of focusing too much on our shortcomings, we can learn alot from our failure. John Maxwell’s book, Failing Forward is a great study in the lessons of evaluated experience.

You have to take the experience, evaluate it and come to a different conclusion than you came to yesterday. It is the definition of insanity; to do the same things over and over and expect a different result- its just not sane.  Persistance has its place: Richard DeVos said, “The single greatest quality of a leader is the ability to keep getting back up- to fail 100 times and 101 times say, ‘Alright, here we go again.'” But DeVos is assuming, like Edison, that you’re going to try it a different way the next time or you’ll end up not only back on your face- but on your face back in the same place.

I can vividly remember an early failure of mine. I didn’t even realize it was a failure for a day or two. But one of my mentors brought it up after hearing about it. They asked me for my take on the situation to clear the facts, then gave me their perspective on it. Both my own experience and the experience of that mentor was in play in that learning session. The lesson- the very words she spoke- still ring in my ear every time I’m at Costco:

“David, never skimp on toilet paper- always buy the two-ply.”

I have never conciously purchased single-ply toilet paper since that early failure. The lesson has stuck with me. But last week i bought single-ply by accident.  

Like a lot of failures in my life- it wasn’t a lack of knowledge that caused me to fall short, it was a lack of implementing the knowledge i already had. I reverted to operating on a faulty conclulsion that is now more than ten years old. I didn’t keep my head in the game and assumed the outcome would be successful instead of taking the necessary steps to ensure success. I really should have checked the packaging to be sure it stated “Two-ply”.

Notice that I mentioned Costco– where everything comes in mega-bulk. This means we will be living with the consequences of my mistake for at least 3 more years.

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One Comment on “Wise Words”

  1. Cara Donahue says:

    I like how you have to be in the game for every decision, big and little. At least with this decision, we’re reminded of the mistake on a daily basis. blargghhh!


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