Experience Is Not the Best Teacher

by | Jun 26, 2018 | Self-Leadership, YouLeadU | 0 comments

During a presentation a few years ago, I mentioned I had to relearn some lessons along the way. One of the participants came up to me afterward and asked, “If you had to relearn a lesson, did you really learn it in the first place?”


Have you ever learned the same lesson more than once? More to the point, have you experienced the same lesson in different circumstances thereby gaining greater insight? If so, you know it is as if you are mining new depths, or climbing new heights. Personal growth digs in spiral fashion deeper to the core of the matter, or climbs higher round and round a peak toward an unexplored summit.

Clarity takes time to develop.

Clarity Requires Perspective
We drove to a retreat center in the mountains of northern New Mexico each summer when our children were young. We climbed mountains and enjoyed adventures together. Our kids still talk about those trips all these years later. Ask them about the time our daughter and I hid under a boulder the size of a house as lightning flashed around us.

We saw things we had not noticed before each time we arrived at a new vantage point. Those new views shifted our perspective.

The first time I read the Bible from cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation and Index to Maps, I trod a path marked by a few unfamiliar places. After doing this for many years now, I read in anticipation of people, events, and the unmistakable activity of our Father in heaven lovingly drawing all people to himself. Still, as I read amid differing circumstances and listen to the rhythms of new translations, I experience the Bible with freshness, insight, and application I had not before that moment.

Maybe we do not relearn lessons, but instead gain new meaning and deeper insights the more we revisit those teachable moments of the past. Once I was blind, but now I see. What was once unclear bears sharper detail upon repeated examination.

Revisit in your mind an unpleasant challenge you experienced years ago. Remember the fear and the pain. Recall your deep anxiety. In that moment, blood pounded in your ears, your mouth was dry, and you wanted to run far, far away. Standing your ground and persevering changed something in you. You walked away from that experience taller and stronger. You are now more competent and courageous.

That experience then has provided years of reflection and adjustment. You learned a cardinal rule of life: Experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is.

If you were asked at that time the top three life lessons you learned from that experience, you might have come up with an important list. However, today you can easily state life lessons you eagerly pass along to others who face what you endured.

Basic discipleship ensures that we know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives. It includes learning to read, study, and apply the Bible. It involves learning to pray in faith. It leads to sharing the good news of life transformation with those who need to experience it.

It means all that and more.

Courage to Know
Basic discipleship is our first calling. This calling is the same for all believers. Our second calling is more specific. It is about the context in which we live out our faith. This second calling includes the courage to know.

The courage to know ourselves begins with learning how our Father in heaven has wired us to live in relationship with himself and with others. It is about why we do what we do.

  • Do we make choices based on the expectations of others?
  • Do we make them based on a projection of ourselves?
  • What most deeply motivates us?

    Experience to Grow
    The second calling involves the experience to grow. Every experience in life is an opportunity to grow. Positive experiences deepen our confidence. Negative experiences develop our character. It is a commonly held truth that our first leadership is self-leadership. You are the president of You University. Your growth and development is largely up to you.

    For some people, things happen to them without anything happening within them. For others, every change changes everything. They never step into the same river twice. They see every sunrise for the unique event it is. They hear the same music with fresh ears. Every opportunity drives them forward into new understanding, into vast new expanses of reflection.

    Value to Show
    The second calling includes value to show. Second-calling Christians grow in fruitful living and effective service. They ponder the next ten percent improvement in their vocational roles. They are focused on aligning their roles with their life purpose. They know they are not growing if they are doing the same thing this year they were doing last year. Not growing in productivity is not an option for second-calling Christians.

    Risk to Go
    The second calling also includes the risk to go. John Shedd said, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are made for.” Indeed, winds and waves bring resistance. They also create conditions for forward motion.

    The question for all second-calling Christians is less and less, “What could you do,” and more and more, “What must you do?”

    Rate Your Life Youniqueness
  • On a scale of 1-10 with 10 representing the highest and best, how well would you say you know yourself?
  • On the same scale, how focused are you on personal growth?
  • On that same scale, what is the value you bring to others?
  • On that same scale, how comfortable are you with where God may lead you to go?

    Yours is a Life Younique (lifeyounique.com). Dare to live the life of God’s dreams for you.



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Psalm 40:6-8
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you open my ears to listen.
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in the scroll it is written about me.
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Psalm 39:4, 5
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