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January 8, 2019

Learning From Experience – #MTtalk Roundup

Michele Doucet

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“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”
― Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist

Facing a new year, I've always wondered what the next 12 months may hold. Perhaps if I knew what was going to happen I'd be able to plan better. However, even with planned events I don't always feel prepared enough.

Knowing what the future holds won't necessarily help me make the best of it. And, maybe if I know what the future holds, I'll be too fearful to live in the moment.

I've come to the conclusion that knowing what the future holds isn't the most important thing. It's more important to know what we've learned from the past and, by implication, from experience, and how to apply that learning.

Today, I'd like to share with you a few things that I've learned from experience that continue to serve me exceptionally well.

Experience Self-Respect and Gratitude

Things aren't always as they seem. The lesson here is that you shouldn't be quick to judge. Your particular experience of situations or incidents can often influence how you see things, and your perception may be at odds with how things really are.

Let it go, or let it grow. You cannot change the past. You have free will and can choose whatever makes you happy. Every choice comes with a consequence and responsibility. So, if you choose to hold onto grudges, remember that they come with a mental, emotional and spiritual weight that you alone can carry.

You can't respect others if you don't respect yourself first. You can't give what you don't have. If your self-respect cup isn't full, it's going to be hard to find any surplus that you can give to others. You might be able to do it for a while, but soon the supply will be exhausted.

Integrity and compliance are two different things. If you're honest only when others are looking, or because you're being checked up on, it's compliance. If you're honest with yourself and others when no-one is watching, it's integrity.

Don't expect others to live according to your values. The implication of expecting others to live according to your values is that you'll expect them to make choices and to behave in ways that suit you. But because expectation often leads to disappointment, that can cause you to live in an almost permanent state of disappointment.

Live in gratitude. Cultivate an attitude of being thankful for small things. Doing so can change your perspective and help you to be more appreciative of what you have. Don't know what to wear in the morning? Be thankful, because it means you have more than one set of clothes.

Learning From Experience

We often learn important skills from experience. In our Twitter poll this week, we wanted to know what skill you learned where experience was your teacher. In our poll, 34 percent of respondents selected perseverance. To see all the options and results, click here.

Here are the questions we asked in our Twitter chat, and some of the responses:

Q1. Is learning from experience the best way to learn?

@ClkContrl In most cases, yes! It's the most natural way to learn. Obviously we can learn from others' experiences, but it might never have the same impact.

@carriemaslen Lessons learned from firsthand experience tend to stick with us.

@TheCraigKaye Experiential learning is very important, but so are resources, support, and a protected environment where we can reflect on this experience, such as keep-in-touch meetings, supervision, and peer support.

Q2. Is there anything that can only be learned from experience?

@upasana_arora4 One example is parenting. It has to be experienced, and no theoretical knowledge can give you the patience to deal with a child.

@LernChance Yes! Riding a bike. Try to explain that to a kid. Or falling in love. You have to experience this.

@WonderPix It also depends how we define "experience." Sometimes we re-learn when we re-experience things.

Q3. Why is learning from experience so powerful?

@MicheleDD_MT Learning from experience is embedded in reality. There are consequences (good and bad) to the choices and decisions made. The learning comes from the lesson we take from the experience, and acting on it.

@harrisonia Learning by experience is powerful because it forces our mind to work while engaging the senses.

Q4. Which experiences outside of work have contributed most to who you are today? What did you learn?

@MarcC_Avgi Growing up on a farm. I learned how to be self-sufficient, the importance and value of hard work, how to look at solutions from different angles, about responsibility, about animals, plants, nature, how to build and fix things, and much more.

@BrainBlenderTec Most experiences, because people are put in your path for a reason. Learn from them or forever repeat till you do.

Q5. What mistakes at work are you glad you made?

@MicheleDD_MT Leaving a job to go to another organization. Despite doing research before accepting the position, the place was toxic. I left and went back to my former company. Lesson: humility and gratitude.

@BrainBlenderTec Every single one of them, as it was the mistakes that had the greatest lessons.

@Yolande_MT Making mistakes when dealing with people and having a boss who mentored and guided me. It changed my life.

Q6. Thinking about your career, which work experiences have shaped you most as a leader? Why?

@Yolande_MT Having to manage people with vastly different value sets than mine. It taught me not to be judgmental.

@Ganesh_Sabari The freedom to take initiatives, the management tolerating my mistakes, and the learning I derived from those mistakes.

@harrisonia I have a healthy understanding and respect for staff at different levels. As a leader, I have not forgotten what it means to work in the trenches.

Q7. If we learn from experience, why do we sometimes repeat the same mistakes?

@harrisonia Though we learn from experience, we sometimes repeat the same mistakes because "we don't know what we don't know until we KNOW that we don't know it."

@Ganesh_Sabari It may be our ability to forgive, or providing more credit than is deserved. Or, it may be our lack of observation and assimilation.

@carriemaslen A key step to learning and growing is to be honestly and brutally self-aware.

Q8. How can we learn from experiences at work? What strategies do you use?

@MarcC_Avgi I can learn something from each and every experience at work, good or bad. Focus on the things you learned as opposed to dwelling on the bad experience.

@harrisonia We can learn from experiences at work by accepting that when others use different processes to reach the same goal, it does not mean they are wrong.

@hopegovind Try new ways of doing the work and find out what you learn from them. Work with a new team every time and mix the kind of people. You will see amazing diversity.

@llake We have to be mindful that we're having an experience. Sometimes we are so busy, we don't slow down to learn and absorb. We learn that we are stronger than we thought and stronger together. Networking and mentoring are great teaching experiences.

Q9. How can we support team members so that they get exposure to the experiences that they need to grow?

@LifeSpeak One way to support colleagues and expose them to helpful growth opportunities is through mentorship. The process can be highly rewarding and mutually beneficial.

@hopegovind Send them for cross-functional experience and send them to a new assignment every time.

@BrainBlenderTec Let them make mistakes, but be there to help them up and offer tips that can lead to their decision.

Q10. As we start a new year, what experiences from 2018 will inform, inspire or influence you in 2019, and how?

@ClkContrl Our team recently doubled and we're offering new services, so I'm remembering that we are a small business at our core, and we need to use that mindset to our strengths as we continue growing into the new year.

@Midgie_MT My greatest achievement in 2018 was the completion of a half Ironman triathlon race (where I came third in my age group!). I will use the same dedication and discipline this year that I used to prepare for my race and apply it to growing my business.

@Yolande_MT Once again for me it’s this: love your neighbor as yourself. If only I can get that right, half the battle will be won.

To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.

Coming Up

Next time on #MTtalk, we're going to talk about Using Charity to Make a Difference. Which charities do you or your organization support, and why? How do you support them? What kind of a difference does it make to people's lives? And what benefits do you get from this activity? Read our blog on Tuesday, January 15 to find out more.


In the meantime, here are some more resources that relate to learning from experience. (Please note, some of the resources listed below are only available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club.)

How to Learn From Your Mistakes

Coach Yourself to Success


Making Amends

How to Handle Criticism

Recovering Your Reputation

Journaling for Professional Development

Level 5 Leadership

Dweck’s Fixed and Growth Mindsets


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