The value of lessons

After crosses and losses, men grow humbler and wiser.
Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

Several years ago, I worked with a young man for a few months with the goal of teaching him better methods to market his services. I became quite frustrated because he didn’t seem to appreciate the value of my lessons and wasn’t fully implementing them. So I set aside some time to consider the situation and try to understand what was going wrong.

This contemplation ended up being very enlightening for me. Here’s what I came to realize. This man was listening to what I had to say but wasn’t sold on my suggestions. He thought he had all the answers and was convinced that his way would eventually work. He hadn’t experienced enough failures and disappointments yet for him to approach our sessions with an open mind.

My client really didn’t see the value in my suggestions. If people don’t believe a task will benefit them, they won’t do it. They might go through the motions, but unless they recognize the value of a new action, they won’t commit significant energy to it.

I realized that I was trying to make things easy for him. I wanted to save him from himself. But sometimes the only way to learn is through experience. Some lessons we have to live to truly understand. We often learn much better from our own mistakes than from observing the mistakes of others.

I also realized I was trying too hard. I was providing lots of lessons that this young man wasn’t ready to learn. So I took a different approach. I backed off a bit, giving him room to make mistakes. As he took more control and made mistakes, he became a much better student.

So what’s the lesson here? We’re all teachers in life: we teach our children, our friends and our co-workers. But at times, we try to help them before they’re ready to be helped, and that just doesn’t work.

How did you learn the most important lessons in life? My guess is, you learned them the hard way: by making mistakes and seeing what worked and what didn’t.

Trying to teach a person before they’re ready to learn is very frustrating and generally a waste of effort. So the next time you’re anxious to teach someone, make sure they’re prepared to listen.

People see what they are prepared to see.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 -1852

Copyright © 2019 John Chancellor

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