Some Thoughts on Experience

As I’ve mentioned on my Facebook page the upcoming short story is almost complete. However, a thought crossed my mind on the way home pertaining to something that’s been going on throughout my life that I’m sure many of you can relate to: that of experience. Now, I don’t mean experience in terms of professional or academic experience (I rant about those enough as it is); I’m referring to life experiences in general.

We often find ourselves on the precipice or crossroads, or even emotionally laden with unresolved conflicts, and in these instances we seek out the guidance or consultation of those who have been there before us, are currently on the same track we are, or are about to reach aforementioned crossroads.
It goes without saying that having a good chat or getting a reality check always helps in these situations: you often learn a thing or two from a story of poor business decisions; you can take solace in the fact that somebody also lost their beloved pet cat in a freak house fire caused by Martians-the list goes on.
Yes, we walk away from these tales feeling enlightened and prepared to either butt heads with whatever challenges we’re currently facing or put to rest those nagging feelings we’ve endured over the years. However, I enjoy playing the devil’s advocate and will make the claim that there is a flipside to this therapy.

There exists a cognitive phenomenon that I studied in my undergrad years whose name escapes me, but for the sake of convenience we’ll call it the “Taxi Driver Effect” after my experiences with cab drivers back home in Lebanon.
Cab drivers love to chat their clients up, and one of their favorite topics (if not their all-time favorite) is politics-always griping about the situation, the economy, how society is degrading, etc… If you have the (mis)fortune of getting tangled up in these conversations, you can’t help but nod and agree with the points they make, if or when they make any reasonable points. What you would notice next is that you feel better and that you’ve accomplished something, having discussed this. It could just be a case of blowing off some steam (فشت خلق) but keep tabs on yourself whenever these situations arise.

Now imagine yourself in a situation that involves you taking action: you meet with your more sagacious and (more importantly) seasoned friends and discuss all possible options and outcomes and walk out feeling more confident and ready to take on the world. But you wake up the next day and forget about doing what you set out to do, having gone to bed with that same sense of accomplishment I mentioned earlier.
The Taxi Driver Effect’s jurisdiction isn’t limited to the cab alone.

Yes, the experience of others is one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal we wield life, but at the same time it acts as an impediment. Not only do we feel like we’ve overcome an obstacle when we discuss someone’s experience in relation to our own, but it can also make us timid. Referring back to the example of somebody making poor business decisions, it could discourage someone from starting their own business, or from making a seemingly risky investment, which would deter one from taking all necessary risks to go forward in their business-related endeavors.
This stagnation that we try to avoid ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy if we rely too heavily on the experience of others. My solution to this:

Move ahead with it. Personal experience differs from person to person, temperament to temperament, etc… True, the same thing that happened to someone else could happen to you, but regard their experiences as suggestions to be taken with a grain of salt. Even if you end up hitting the same dead end as that other person, it’s all part of the learning process. Just shake off the dust and move on, but make sure you managed to prepare for all contingencies and situations.
The most important thing is that you keep moving and that you keep learning-one of these days people will be asking you for their advice on certain matters, and nobody likes somebody with nothing to say.

Happy Easter.

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About optimistthepessimist

Always in transit.
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