Extracting Meaning From Experience

Each of us has experiences. Both good and bad. That’s life and not very interesting. The question becomes interesting when you see how people learn from their experience.

Experience is the best teacher

Experience is the best teacher and for its price, it damned well better be.

Each of us pay the price, but not all of us will get full value for it. How can we improve that?

Learning more from experience.

Assume there is more than one lesson. Mark Twain offered a thought. “If a cat jumps onto a hot stove, it will never jump on a hot stove again. And it will never jump on a cold stove either.” Much of our experience is situational. Identify the factors in the situation that dominate your lesson. Are there others you are ignoring? Should you?

Is the lesson reusable?  Some things we experience are not reusable with any certainty. In those cases, you can still learn, but only from the structure or the environment in which the situation arose. Could be a new way to see how people behave, could be something you had not expected and could change your variables for what’s possible.

Do you have to participate if it reappears? If yes, how do you optimize? Make the bad less bad and the good much better. If something is good learning the factors within the situation should help you to be able to participate in more of the good.

Can you assess whether you can stop once involved? Using experience to help you decide avoidance behaviour is worthy. In every experience you did not like, assess where it was you could have stopped. A failing experience has a point within it where you know how it is going and yet continue. Learn to trust your gut.

What happens when you don’t learn

Repeating mistakes is senseless. The question is do you know? That’s why you analyze experience so you can take the lesson forward. Once you know the result from a certain set of variables, you can adjust. “There is no learning in the second kick from a mule” Mitch McConnell. Don’t carelessly get the second kick.

You can be influenced by others.  Crowd following is an easy mistake. Sometimes it is the only way to go, but when you have experience you should use it to your advantage. Let the crowd acquire their own experience. Group reaction is too easy for many.

“The average citizen is the world’s most efficient censor. His own mind is the greatest barrier between him and the facts. His own “logic-proof compartments,” his own absolutism are the obstacles which prevent him from seeing in terms of experience and thought rather than in terms of group reaction.” Edward Bernays

When you don’t learn from your own experience. You don’t learn from others.  If you cannot learn from your own experience, you tend not to learn from any experience. That is very limiting because the cheapest experience is the experience of others. That’s what education is about. Do you find yourself taking the wrong message from education? If you cannot see the purpose or the use, you are missing things you might be able to use.

Where to next?

Accept that most of your experience good or bad, is your own responsibility. You will never learn a thing from mistakes if you assume it is someone else’s fault. Could be circumstances or history or cultural bias. In any case, your job is to make the most of yourself, given what you have to work with.

Learn about other people’s approaches. Read about persuasion. Many people have been reading the material and are using it against you. You don’t have to want to persuade others, but you do need to be able to see it happening.

The takeaway.

You can learn more from experience if you pay attention.

Pay more attention to other people’s experience. It’s cheap and everywhere.

Experience is a high value if used properly.


I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

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