Learning by Your Own Experiences and Learning by Others’ Experiences

There is no question in my mind that learning directly from your own experience is the best, all ’round way to learn. In my view, the value of learning from others’ experiences is overrated. My apologies to parents, teachers, and gurus who think that their own experiences teach as much as they think to their children, students, and followers.

Parents, teachers, and gurus can certainly inspire others and facilitate learning. They can direct others to look in places that these others might not have considered. Be assured, though, the best of these guides teach others to look first inside themselves without creating dependencies.

Sometimes learners do not want to look inside themselves. I recently was working with a client who was very annoyed with me when I tried to point his attention to the knowledge he had demonstrated in the past on the very subject that he wanted an answer from me. Well — just between you and me — I had at least 25 viable answers to his question. For me, it was an easy question because it landed right in an area of my own long-time expertise and experience.

Because of his resistance in tapping his own power in that moment, he was preventing himself from hearing my suggestions. My suggestions were phrased as, “you could try this…” and “here’s another possibility…” My intention was to encourage him to let go of his resistance, however, this further annoyed him, because he wanted me to tell him the single, precise, definitive, correct answer. I could not quite bring myself to tell him that I had at least 25 viable answers to his question, because I knew that would annoy him still further.

He was expecting that somehow the answer to his question was coded inside me, and there was only one answer. And it was the right answer. Further, he expected that all other possibilities were wrong.

I have a very different perspective from his: I consider that embodied within every question is the answer, within every problem is its solution, within every person is the guide. Inside each person are powerful mechanisms (intuition and feelings) to discern the appropriate answer for that person. He was not willing to meet me where I was in believing in his competence; I was not willing to meet him where he was in believing in his incompetence or that I had the answer for him.

I give a client far more of value by directing her or him to search for the answer than to act as a dictionary. I prefer to preface my suggestions with, “Oh, let’s look over here….” “Hmm, how does this sound? ….” “Well, here’s something you might consider….”

I’d rather be a thesaurus than a dictionary.