I don’t know if this happened to you when you were younger, but it happened a lot to me. I was given sage advice from people older than me about my career, my life, my goals – you name it. At the time I thought, what the hell is all this nonsense about. It’s no big deal. I’ll be fine. I can work it out myself – thank you very much.
I did okay on my own following my own lead. But, I see now from the perspective of someone who is older and has been through a “few” things in life that I might have done better, easier or at least differently in my life to this point.
The problem is perspective. When we start out fresh and new in life or at something we’ve never done before, we only have a forward perspective. This is good – its fresh and untainted by negative experience and full of potential. When we come to the end of something we have restrospective. We have experience – both positive and negative. With experience we could shortcut and bypass dead ends. All useful skills when you want to maximize your potential.
Perversely, we each only have one life in which to reach and maximize our potential, yet if we were to have a second or third or even more chances to go through the processes we all endure, we would ideally get better at them. We each learn so much about so much during the course of our existence and are limited in our ability to convey these learnings to others around us. And then we die.
When I think about the people close to me who have died, in each instance its like an entire library of knowledge and experience has burned to the ground – gone forever. All I truly have left of them is MY experience and memory of them.
I know as we grow and gain experience in life, there is a feedback loop which certainly helps us when gaining new experience. But we are less and less open to the full potential of a new experience. One could argue that the past negative experiences also taint our approach – channel us in how we approach new things. So learning from past experience then is a double edged sword. While it gives us confidence and insight that enable us at the same time it changes our outlook and limits our options.
How then are we to pass on knowledge and experience to our children if we aren’t even able to properly do it for ourselves? How are we to provide unbiased, useful information that will enable them but not limit them? I don’t know.
There is a duality here – a yin and yang – which, to me, implies there is a balance to reach for. Logically, this balance should be sought both when using past experience to inform internally and also when distributing experience externally to our children as sage wisdom.
The more I learn, the more I realize, the more I NEED to learn.