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Life Lessons: How Do You Learn?

Updated: May 19, 2023

When I was young, I made a mistake. My guess is you did too.

When we are learning something new, in some form or fashion, we all make mistakes. For me, my youthful, big mistake happened when I was learning to drive.

This last week, my sixteen-year-old nephew went through a similar mistake. In thinking about his mistake and my own from my youth, I started to think about our different journies when we learn something new.

Two years ago, I got to be with this nephew the first time he went down a ski run. He had just finished his ski lessons, which had been centered around a magic carpet rather than the actual hill. So after the "easy" lesson, he was ready to venture up.

With no problem, he got off the lift. He then told me he was good, so I said I would follow him down the decent-size beginner's hill.

But he took off!

Straight down!

Just like a cannonball shot out of its cannon. With no veering to the right or left.

I consider myself a good skier, and I can ski fast enough when I wish, but for the life of me, I could not keep up with my nephew.

All the signs were there that this first run would not end well. With that speed, the stop would be an epic fall with some likely injury. So I hastened to catch up while his opened coat flew behind him like bat wings.

He met the end of the hill before I reached him, only for him to miraculously stop, right at the end of the run, almost neatly among a crowd of skiers heading toward the lift. No fall. No causality or trauma. But when I looked at his face, it was a look of shock, nearly terror.

"You okay?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Do you know how to stop?"

He shook his head.

From there, we took some time to work on strategies to control his speed and how to brake. Next time, when we went back up the hill he was ready to apply his newly learned skills. Soon we advanced to other portions of the mountain while he continued to practice his snow plowing and carving skills. Because of his earlier experience, he now was invested in learning, through practice, the crucial movements to successfully ski down the mountain.

His learning pattern is similar to mine. I start confident, jumping in, only to discover that learning about something is different than being able to do that something. The act of doing takes practice, it's about applying skills rather than just hearing about the process.

Often, for me, I don't pause until what I don't know becomes apparent. Then I become invested in learning. Sometimes, my quick "let's dive in attitude" has caused me some abrupt additional lessons over what I don't know.

Like with driving.

Thankfully, no one was hurt in my youth driving lessons - just cars. Fortunately for my nephew, no one was hurt either. Still, the lesson learned hurt my emotions and pride.

Even after all these years, I still wish I could change my driver-in-training accident. But sometimes we learn best through the things that don't go right.

I have been playing with this question: What if surrounding angels protected my nephew on the ski run from harm, but in driving, those same angels left him just enough unprotected to allow for deeper learning to take place?

Over this past week, I have been revisiting my youth car accident and considering what life lessons I learned.

Besides the obvious (that I wasn't ready to be a certified driver), I also learned:

  • Humility - a trait that I continue to learn (and that serves me good again and again through life)

  • Skills are to be practiced - learning to do something requires work, patience, and dedication.

  • I have weaknesses - although not fun to discover, acknowledging my weaknesses better prepares me for more learning ahead.

  • The blessing of family - in the aftermath, I saw how my parents loved me, forgave me, and supported me...and I saw some things I could do differently as an adult.

Some of us don't like to learn because of those tough moments that come through the process. But in shifting our thinking, learning's tough moments (or those moments of mistakes) can also led us to blessings.

I believe in a Master Teacher, a God who has a plan for each one of us. He needs us to learn certain things because of that plan. He knows what is ahead and allows for things to happen so we can learn. Sometimes, in our learning, we stop safely. Sometimes we don't. But learning still happens.

We are here on this great planet Earth to learn. If we use this time well, we can take our mistakes and let them be part of our growth.

How do you tend to learn? Fast or slow? Methodically or through chaos? In chunks or in big light bulb moments?

How have mistakes shaped your learning?

And how are those life lessons played into your greater growth?

Celebrate the journey and celebrate your growth!

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