A family member sent me the following quote attributed to Bernard Palissy, Fourteenth Century artist, engineer and writer.
“Even if used a thousand reams of paper to write down all the accidents that have happened to me in learning this art, you must be assured that however good a brain you may have, you will still make a thousand mistakes, which cannot be learned from writing, and even if you had them in writing you wouldn’t believe them until practice has given you a thousand afflictions.”
Who amongst us has not experienced the difference between listening to what others say, reading what others have written compared to our own full immersion in the issue or project we read and hear others discuss? It’s why I contend and have written time and again of the importance of our own experiences, whether planned or accidental and how vital it is that we learn from what we do as well as the errors, omissions and successes of others. This is ultimately how people arrive at that “aha” moment. It is where “I Know!” results from endless head, heart and hands involvement.
How many times in a day do we hear someone say “I know” when really they are parroting the words spoken and written by others? People say they “know” even if they have not actually experienced what it is they say they know so they don’t know, but think they know and too often this means beings closed off to knowing. For thousands of years people depended on pictures on cave walls, word of mouth, story tellers and balladeers for information. The data instantly available today is almost overwhelming. But whether the picture on a wall or the unlimited information on the internet none of this is knowing when compared to knowing from personal experience. And to complicate the issue of experiential knowing, our personal experiences are never without bias.
Have you ever played the game of “telephone” where someone whispers to the person next to them and the next person whispers what they heard to the next one and so on until all the people in the circle had a story relayed to them? It’s a laugher as to how quickly a story is changed from one person to the next. Is it that we hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see?
We humans are limited in our ability to be objective. As long as we have feelings and history we also have influences playing on our thought processes and behavior. So nothing is crystal clear and pure when it comes to humans as reporters, story tellers, leaders and teachers even if they have “been there and done that.” So the “knower” never conveys an exact truth. People are not cameras. No, our subjectivity is pervasive and is part of everyone’s experience. That being said, I strongly hold to the quote at the beginning of this paper that in order to really know something one must experience it. The message is clear: Don’t deny or resent your experiences. Learn from them. Being a student is a never ending drive for some and all students are to be commended. But being a student to others written and spoken words does not lead to knowing it leads to a”between the ears” understanding. This is a good thing, but limited to answering questions not solving problems. The true problem solver is similar to the true entrepreneur. They will be knocked down, maybe bloodied, face failure time and again, but continue their particular journey because they are driven to know and to know must be experienced.