We Learn Almost Everything From The Experience Of Others.

Not our own. Whether that experience comes to us from books or is taught by action or example is irrelevant.
Case in point. I came into my industry green and naive. My first boss was evil incarnate. He was insecure in himself and had an ability to make people feel insecure about themselves so that he could control and manipulate them. He became one of the most successful people ever in our industry. He died recently and frankly, I did not mourn his death. Just a few days after I received a call from another person who hadn't worked for him, but had experienced his capacity for cruelty and manipulation.
I worked for him for two years.He took credit for my ideas and everything I did became the platform for his success.
But that's okay. I realized that if I really had what it takes, I was a free man. I could replicate my success elsewhere.
My next boss actually helped me realize that. He was everything my first boss wasn't. Empathetic, generous,deeply experienced and book smart too.
He gave me permission to fail. I went to him with an idea that wasn't terribly good. He looked at me and said," I wouldn't do that if I were you." I did it anyway. He was right. But, not once did he call me on my mistake. He counselled me daily on what it takes to succeed. He showed me how to learn from case studies. He taught me that nothing is new. He was an expert on film. He read widely.
He knew how to write in different voices. He was brilliant. He was also feared by anyone he competed with. Because he had the knowledge, experience and track record to beat any of his competitors.

He was successful in his own way. He sold his company for millions of dollars and went off to play golf (He was also a scratch golfer.)
Paradoxically, he decided to go back into the business and briefly and took a job briefly with my first boss. It lasted about a day.

I guess the biggest thing I learned from him is just how much I can learn from the experiences and writings of others.

Postscript: Though both men gained fortune, only one achieved fame. My second boss never made into the Hall of Fame. Despite the fact that he created the most enduring and effective work in our industry. He was so reviled for his expertise, his competitors shut him out. I wonder whether that bothers him today? I
penguinswon penguinswon
14 Responses Jul 22, 2010

it's okay, I got a letter from my death panel inviting me to pick a date. There's a special on caskets if I commit now! It's a once in a lifetime offer!

Gasp! You spoke ill of the demi-gods! I'm afraid there's no hope for you. Your health insurance premiums will rise by 50% in August as punishment for your scurrilous attack on the holy ones.

Q: Are you suggesting that 'false consciousness' is not a problem for those who acquire second hand knowledge?<br />
<br />
A: Two words: FOX NEWS.

Oh, I think that you're both right -- sometimes we can learn from another's experiences and from books and really get it -- other times it takes the school of life for some things to sink in or become ours.

let's not go there... I don't want to talk about the failures of doctors, clinically trained or otherwise. <br />
They're a bad bunch

~~~a bit late here but~~~ <br />
Nope! I'm not that guy. One of my better qualities is that I'm an excellent student and not only do I seek out expert instruction I actually pay attention. Yes I have found that reading the directions first does result in fewer leftover parts. LOL<br />
So...... i don't devalue "second hand knowledge" I simply hold that mastery of any subject requires direct experience.<br />
If classroom work were sufficient there would be no need for the hands on lab work that almost all science curricula require. Would you choose a physician who had not done a residency and been clinically trained?


I thought all guys read the instructions after the assembly :-/

not all people who gain second hand knowledge are able to use it. I guess I have, so my direct experience validates the value of second hand knowledge. <br />
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Ah, I know you.. you're the guy who read the Ikea instructions after you have put the bookcase together. And when you're finished, it looks good. But you're holding a leftover piece wondering and what to do with it.

Are you suggesting that 'false consciousness' is not a problem for those who acquire second hand knowledge? We all lie to ourselves. Overcoming that delusional practice is a task of all people.<br />
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Guided self-examination such as therapy, counseling, meditation etc. are all direct experiences. Just having someone tell you you are hosed, do it my way is an exercise in futility.<br />
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Certainly you don't believe that a woman in such a position will be able to counter her denial through reading a self-help book. Or do you?

Perhaps, but there's always the problem of 'false consciousness'.. A prime example is the battered wife who sticks around and blames herself for what her husband is doing to her.

Ah.... the "unexamined life" scenario. Again, I agree there are many such folk out there. There is no point in reinventing the wheel. Failure to include and consider alternate approaches to a situation based on another person's experience is foolish. However I don't believe that fact counters the position I took above. Direct experiential learning confirms or denies the info presented by other sources.

thanks for your input. excellent. Conversely, there are some, or even a lot of people who act in a certain way because they don't know better. Why don't they know better? Because they are unable to see beyond their own narrow experience. These are the people who keep getting punched. So even if they are rolling with the punches. they never learn how to avoid the next one, or understand why they are getting punched in the first place

I'll agree that we learn the outline and even many of the particulars of any skill set from the experience gained by others. BUT until we own that knowledge as a direct experience we are not as able to extemporize or roll with the punches as someone who has lived it. Getting the base knowledge from a mentor or from books is fine but until that information is tempered in your real experience it is not owned.