Monday, March 09, 2009

Changing Through Experience

You've heard the saying "experience is the best teacher", right?

The great Roman leader Julius Caesar recorded the earliest known version of this proverb, "Experience is the teacher of all things." around 52 B.C.

The Roman author Pliny in 77 A.D. wrote, "Experience is the most efficient teacher of all things." (Sounds like he copied most of it from JC.)

What I think they really mean is most people learn more by doing than by reading or listening.

Would you agree with that?

If experience is the best teacher, then why did I spend all those years in school? Was it to gain knowledge or gain experience? Shouldn't I just have gone out and gathered lots and lots of experience?

If experience is the best teacher then why aren't those with the most life experiences the most successful?

Will Rogers

Will Rogers once said, "The trouble with using experience as your guide is that sometimes the final exam comes first, then the lesson."

Og Mandino wrote, "In truth, experience teaches thoroughly yet her course of instruction devours men's years so the value of her lessons diminishes with the time necessary to acquire her special wisdom. The end finds it wasted on dead men. Furthermore, experience is comparable to fashion; an action that proved successful today will be unworkable and impractical tomorrow."

Do you agree with those statements?

So which is it then? Let's look at axiology first and then we'll take a peek at how neuroscience and the brain work to answer the question "Is Experience the Best Teacher?".

The Value of Experience

Knowledge (thinking) lays the foundation for experience, yet axiologically knowledge is infinitely less valuable than experience. You see, knowledge is systemic. By definition, it only exists in your mind. Experience is extrinsic... you can measure it and you can see it. Something that is tangible is infinitely more valuable than something that only exists in your head.

So, experience is infinitely more valuable than knowledge. But is it the best teacher?

Because you have measured it, seen it, and experienced it, does that mean that you have learned from it? Of course not!

It is implied in the saying "Experience is the best teacher" that if you experience a lot, you will learn a lot. Now I'm not going to tell you that experience isn't a good teacher but it is only a good teacher if it brings about change.

A rich and wise man once told me, "to know and not do is not to know". Sure I was confused at first, but then I realized what it meant. For example, to say you KNOW you should exercise more and not DO it, is exactly the same as not knowing you should do it. Why? Because the knowledge changes nothing.

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