Learning From Others

My beautiful wife runs the Armenian Sunday school at our church. Last night was their main annual fundraiser. This time I was helping an Armenian family originally from Iran make the koobideh. In the process I heard their story of running from Iran, walking fifteen days in a desert to Pakistan, running from Pakistan to Singapore, from there to Germany as refugees, from there to the United States. The persecution endured must have been unreal. Even in the US, arriving without money, they had to endure three years of harsh labor working every day from 8am to midnight. To have to go through everything with a family and a small child is unbelievable. For me this was an opportunity to learn.

The process of learning from others is my “secret” method of learning life’s lessons. We have all heard that we learn through our mistakes, or failure is good. I do not subscribe to this as the price paid for making our mistakes and failures can be very high. I make mistakes all the time and learn from those but the lessons learned elsewhere help me make fewer mistakes and minimize their impact. Learning as much as possible from others’ mistakes and failures is a more profitable method especially since there are plenty of examples to learn from all around us. This process, however, is not easy and requires brutal honesty with ourselves along with ability to connect, understand and learn from everyone around us. On learning, this post from Nigel Davies should not be missed. Also on learning, this post from Jeff Watson drills on street smarts vs. book smarts. This letter from Victor Niederhoffer should be read by all children from 0 to 100 years old.

Maroon Bells by *Latefor
Maroon Bells by *Latefor

I made a comment there about each life representing a bell shaped curve of some sort. While we represent a statistic in various frequency distributions that also look like bell curves, there I was talking about our individual life’s highs and lows by any measure (health, wealth, knowledge, contributions, physical ability, suffering, etc.) also looking like bells along the time dimension. These are not perfectly balanced bells and at any point in time, there’s someone who’s just starting and another who’s at the top of the curve. Learning from those who have already made the mistakes or failed along their bell path when we become interested in the subject is an exciting experience but requires sometimes temporarily ignoring other characteristics and disabling some of our screens. Obviously, we must be careful to only soak in the content that we seek and not the rest present in the overwhelming composite called the human nature.

Along the same lines, I could not get away from the TV during this interview with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot about the “third chapter” in life. I’m only in my second chapter but can already sense the significant changes in patience and perspective. While I am in no rush to reach the third chapter, it is good to know of at least one way to deal with the changes in the bells.


  1. Very nicely presented.
    Not too many people in their 2nd chapter take the time to listen, observe and learn from others’ experiences and life’s dealings.
    I am glad you are one of those people.

  2. This is always an interesting experience, to hear and learn from others. It’s unavailable to the people completely self-concerned, or that feels some kind of superiority. To connect with another person and share his/hers experience requires a genuine interest in human beings. This is only possible to the people heart-oriented. I’m glad you are this kind of people.

  3. Agree. And you have certainly provided exemplary references of individuals to learn from.

    Jeff’s post and the lively comments which followed made for useful reflection on ‘street smarts vs book smarts’. Adding to this, a recent comment on GM Nigel Davies’ site, while not directly pertaining to learning, seems to echo the ethos attached to vigorous and direct first-hand experience, over weaker and dissipated secondary offerings:

    “Go out and doing things, finding and creating experiences, is a far more multi-dimensional form of experience.”

    And the following speaks of this rather well…


  4. Don – Very true. When I talk about avoiding mistakes, I absolutely do not mean avoiding experiences. Experiences are the building blocks of life. Thanks for that scene. That’s one I never forget and every time I see it, it feels like watching for the first time. The background of the movie is our small town. Boston truly deserves a visit by everyone.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: