Some Things Are Better Learned Through Experience
As we grow up we learn lots of things. From our mothers we learn manners and from our fathers we learn how to climb trees and how to throw a ball. Our parents teach us to take our first steps, how to tie our shoes and how to write our names. When the times come we are sent off to school where we learn new things everyday. The names of colors and nursery rhymes, we learn about dinosaurs and how to get along with other children. But there are many things we learn only through experience and no one, not our parents or school teachers, can teach us how to react in these situations.
Take for example a hot stove. Our mums may tell us time and time again to not get near the stove, warning us that the stove is hot but it is not until we touch it and are burned do we realize just how much harm can be inflicted from the stove that cooks our food and warms water for tea everyday. Similarly is the warning we hear all too often of “don’t run with your shoes untied!” No matter how many times our parents may warn us, it is not until we trip and fall do we remember the logic of keeping shoes tied. Many times stumbling on an untied shoelace isn’t even enough and it takes a good scrap on the knee for us to realize just how savvy our parents can be. Many opportunities show us lessons learned only the hard way, through experience and finding out for oneself exactly what happens. Sometimes it’s an insistence to be stubborn as a mule or sheer rebellion that prevents us from admonishing our parents’ advice. Other times there is no other way to learn than learning for oneself “the hard way” the lessons of life.
Falling in love is one such experience that can only be learned through actually going through the experience. Our parents can not teach us how to fall in love or how to love someone or even who we should love. Often they warn us that the people we are involved with “are wrong for us” but we never trust their judgment because love changes person to person and our emotions take over our logic. We think “who are they to tell me who to love and how to love?” and they are also at a loss because they know that these lessons can only be learned by experience. They must see us fall and make bad decisions because it is the only way for us to make better decisions later on. H.W. Andrews is quoted as saying:
“Failure to make a decision after due consideration of all the facts will quickly brand a man as unfit for a position of responsibility. Not all of your decisions will be correct. None of us is perfect. But if you get into the habit of making decisions, experience will develop your judgment to a point where more and more of your decisions will be right. After all, it is better to be right 51% of the time and get something done, than it is to get nothing done because you fear to reach a decision.” (Andrews, 2008).
He does not say that listening to advice develops our judgment to make good decisions but rather it is experience that will hone our decision-making abilities and teach us which decisions are better than others. Experiences are not always pleasant and it is not by mistake that we say that “Experience is the cruelest of all teachers” but it is the fastest way to learn as well. It is through life’s experiences that we learn how to overcome, how to compromise and what to compromise. We learn who we are and what kind of people we are through every subsequent experience we endure. Each decision we make determines where we stand and what kind of people we are.
Experience also helps us as we advance in life to make better decisions. Aldous Huxley says that, “Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him,” (Huxley, 2001). Just as we learn as a child not to touch hot stoves and we know that every time we touch one we will be burned experiences we learn later in life we know not to repeat. Cheating on an exam and getting caught hopefully teaches us to not cheat on following exams in the future. Being betrayed by friends teaches us who to trust and hopefully shows us how betrayal can hurt others and so we become careful to not do it ourselves. Learning from our mistakes and the consequences of our experiences is just as important if not more than the actual experience may have been.
Andrews, H.W.. “Experience quotes.” ThinkExist.com Quotations. 1 Apr. 2008 .
“Experience Quotes and Sayings.” The Quote Garden. 1 Apr. 2008 .
Huxley, Aldous. Complete Essays, Vol. 3: 1930-1935. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2001.