You Can’t Learn from Others’ Mistakes

· November 21, 2015

Learning is a fascinating process. But, fascinating doesn’t mean that it’s always pleasant or easy to learn. It doesn’t mean that we’re always ready to cope with things as deeply as the moment deserves.

We begin this learning process observing the world with eyes open wide, looking on with awe as things happen around us. While our family members tell us how cute we look, we are concentrated on other things.

We watch as an object appears and disappears and assume it’s the same object. We assume that things keep existing, though they escape our field of vision. We realize that everyone else understands each other in a common tongue and not in the gibberish that we use.

So, we aim to learn this way of communication, because we also want to live the experience of sharing, of asking for things, of expressing our opinions.

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Soon we incorporate experiments into all of this observation. We throw a spoon full of baby food or a sippy cup to the floor and learn of this wonderful thing called gravity. This is, hands down, much more interesting than our angry parents or the way our grandparents shrug it off.


While we grow, our parents are supposed to grow as well. Neither of these two developments are simple, since parents want to protect their children. But, at the same time, these children want more and more freedom.

So, parents one day realize that their kids have left the nest and there are a lot of things they are going to have to face by themselves. However, it’s even more complicated for parents to understand that some things are still within their control. That they know some things their kids are going to have to learn on their own.

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The taste of learning

I’m sure that a teenager could read all of the literature there is on love, but they never truly learn it until they begin to experience it. Of course, there are great descriptions of it, but we only recognize them as such when we’ve felt love of our own. Before you have experienced it, it sounds like something foreign and out of this world.

Likewise, there are some lessons you can only learn if you experience them first-hand. Why is that? Because these lessons have to do with us. We’re directly involved in them. These are complex emotional processes that we have to develop in order to reach maturity and find our way.

In other words, no matter how similar our genome may be, we each have a certain degree of acceptance and tolerance. We need to learn to move about in this world with our own traits, and not with anybody else’s.

We need to create our own definition of love, hate and distrust. Regardless of the fact that everyone’s definition ends up being very similar. It’s the details that mark the difference. They make us our own person and not the people that try to offer us advice with such good intentions.

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So, there is some pain that can’t be avoided. For example, the first great disappointment of a friendship. Others can tell us that a certain someone is bad, that they’re not good for us, but we need proof. We need to throw the spoon on the floor. It’s not enough for others to tell us it’s going to fall.

We need to really learn this process of disappointment, because later on we’ll need to be smart with it. We’ll need to know for ourselves when there’s a lot more at stake than a couple of days spent at home trying to cushion the pain.

Can we limit our experiences? 

Of course, there are some limits to the learning process. For example, we should always keep someone from flinging themselves off a bridge. But it seems that these limits, most of the time, tend to be too restrictive rather than too liberal.

This isn’t only important because we could keep someone from learning something when they should. It’s also important because, in many cases, we could make this lesson happen much farther away from us than it would have otherwise.

The person that’s doing the learning could back away in fear that we’re trying to influence them, when there’s no need for it. This could prevent us helping them when they really need it. And it could make you more and more distant every day, turning you into two complete strangers.