Experience isn’t the best teacher, it is the only teacher. ~Albert Schweitzer
This is one of my favourite and useful quotes. I strongly believe, especially in the world of business consulting, that too many young consultants are giving advice based on “rented knowledge” (from a book or someone else’s work) and not “earned knowledge”. And it is pretty easy for a client to tell the difference. Earned knowledge comes across with an equal dose of optimism and skepticism based on hard knocks, not hard MBA classes. “Brick Wall University” gives the best lessons.
But while experience is the only teacher, not everyone is a good learner!
If wisdom were just based on experiences and the amount of life lived, then all old people would be smart. And indeed there are a few elderly sages around helping others benefit from their experiences. But there are also a lot of very dumb old people who have lived through many experiences, yet haven’t seemed to learn much of anything!
Experience is the only teacher, if you pay attention.
What I find amazing is that there are lots of people with years of experience who are still pretty dumb about life, and then some young people with much less experience who are “wise beyond their years”. It all comes down to whether you pay attention and learn the lessons available from life’s experiences.
And for those who want to develop more wisdom and value from their life and business experiences, there is a very easy and effective formula. We teach this in all our leadership development consulting assignments as well as make it the backbone of our “leadership coaching” processes.
The formula goes like this:
Taking time out to reflect and find the core principles contained in each experience is the fastest way to deeply learn the lessons from life’s experiences. Read a recent paper in the Harvard Business Review for some real evidence of just how productive reflection can be. If you don’t have any quiet, reflective time in your day (or your life) then you will gain lots of experience “wrinkles” and scars, but not much wisdom.
Quiet! It’s time to Reflect and Learn . . .
See the review of LEVERAGE in The Economist (January 9, 2014.
John also writes thriller novels: novels.johnrchildress.com