Experience is The Best Teacher


Life experience is important and the best way to learn; I say this because I’ve learnt way more by having a job and getting real-world experience than I ever did from school.

Real-world experience is the best teacher because it is hands-on and deals directly with our senses. It is also important because we often don’t truly understand something until we have done it ourselves. When we learn from books, our lessons are ideas, so they don’t always easily translate into actions.

If you have ever tried to learn something complicated from a book, you might have found that it wasn’t all that easy. Sometimes we forget that trying things ourselves is often the best way to learn.

If you want to know why this is, keep reading as we will explain why.

The Importance of Life Experience

When we think about learning, we may imagine sitting in class as a child while the teacher blabbered about something in front of the class. The funny thing is that we spend most of our first 18 years at school learning things this way.

Sure we get a little bit of hands-on experience during some of our assignments, but it is primarily pencils on paper otherwise.

We learn a lot of information as kids; you might have memories of the Pythagorean theorem, but when was the last time you used it? Unless you are an engineer, I bet you haven’t looked at it since way back when.

On the other hand, if I were to ask you how to make breakfast, you might not be able to explain it, but you could do it with your eyes closed.

I was a good student; I studied all the time and had a limited social life. If you asked me about something from school, I might remember it; I can still do some math and have a general understanding of science.

But how well would any of us do if we were giving one of our final exams today?

I wasn’t on any sports teams at school, but I’d bet anyone who was could still catch a fly ball or sink some baskets. If you were in the band, you could probably still play your instrument as well.

There were other things in school that we learnt and probably use today, like keeping track of our schedules or making friends, but most lessons are long since forgotten.

I’m not suggesting that school was a waste of time, but we learnt a lot of stuff back then that we can’t or don’t use today. Most of what we learn in school helps us do well on tests, but it isn’t all that practical or useful in our day-to-day lives today.

On the other hand, there are lots of things that we learn every day that we can use over and over again. I remember as a kid, going to a candy store and buying something was a scary thing, but once you’ve been shown how to do it, it’s easy, and you can do it again. Now, as we have grown older, we are still using that real-world life experience all the time to make our lives better.

When we hear things on the news or read about people’s experiences in books, we only have an idea about what it is like. I’ve never experienced a severe earthquake before, but my wife, who grew up in Japan, has. When she was in university, there was a huge one that left the power off for weeks. To this day, she always thinks of having extra food in the house if we can’t get to the store.

I don’t want to suggest that being fearful is a good thing, but having been in a dire situation like she was taught her a valuable lesson about being prepared.

If we listen to the news, we’ve likely heard about many different bad things happening worldwide, but how many of those things have you prepared for? If the power went out for a week, would you know what to do?

Life experience is important because it shows us how to do things that matter to our lives. You can learn anything from a book, but you don’t if you can actually do it until you try doing it in the real world with your own hands.

Learning From Books or a Teachers is Intellectual

A lot of what we consider learning is playing with words and ideas inside of our heads. Most of what we learn at school, we do with books, notebooks and computers. We might spend a whole bunch of time reading and then a whole bunch of time writing. 

But what matters is that we aren’t dealing with real things. Instead, we deal with the ideas or representations of real things.

Most school-based learning is intellectual; it isn’t practical, and it isn’t real.

While reading books or watching movies can be interesting, I love to read; it is different from actually doing something. I remember watching the movie The Darjeeling Limited and being fascinated by India. And while that movie was interesting on an intellectual level, I didn’t know anything about India, so I had to go there myself.

The film made me interested in travelling to India, but I had to experience it myself to know anything about it.

When we learn about things, the experience takes place in our heads, so it is just an idea. When we do something, we experience it through our senses, and so it becomes real and something we are a part of.

Life Experience is Real; You Experience it With Your Sense

As I mentioned above, travelling to India was way different from watching a movie about it. When you watch a movie, you get to enjoy it from the comfort of your home, you see and hear it, but you can quickly go to the kitchen and grab a snack.

When you travel somewhere and experience it in real life, all of your senses are a part of the experience. When I think of my time in India, I remember the heat, the humidity and the smells. I also remember how cautious I was about everything I ate and the people I interacted with.

Doing something rather than thinking about it or watching it is a real trip; life experience is all around you, you can feel it with all of your senses.

It is real and practical and demands your constant attention. While reading a book, you can fall asleep, and it won’t make any difference, but when you are learning while doing, you can’t fall asleep; it isn’t possible.

What is most important about life experience is that it is all around you, and you can’t escape it. It is immersive, and while you can get into a book, you are never really there. Yet, when you are doing something for real, it is all around, and you can’t escape it.

The way we experience things with our senses brings them closer to home; we feel all the things around us, so we get caught up in them. Put another way, when you do something for real, there is more to it than just an idea.

There is a whole world of experience, which makes the connection to the experience that much stronger.

It is Easier to Use Life Experience

We recently bought a new bike for my daughter; I brought the box to the basement and put it together. I took an hour or so, and everything seemed fine, except the brakes. I read and reread the instructions, but I could not make any sense; the pictures weren’t even the same as the pieces I had in front of me.

So I tried and played around as much as possible, but it didn’t seem to work. The next day, I watched some videos on how to set up breaks, none of them were the same as what I was looking at, but they did point me in the right direction.

After this learning, I tried again and was able to sort things out. But only because I twisted things, pulled wires, tested the breaks and a whole bunch of other things.

The thing was that I couldn’t figure it out by reading the instruction manual; I had to see someone else doing it, and then I had to try it myself to figure it out. Now I can confidently say that I’d be able to fix bike breaks, but that is only because I have already done it myself.

When we do things for real and with our own hands, it is much easier to remember what we have learnt because it is much more tangible and relatable.

Simple things like making a meal are scary the first time, but we can figure it out with practice and do it much better the next time. 

Practice makes perfect, but the only way to get any actual practice is to do it yourself. A recipe will help you make a meal, but you’ve got to try it yourself to get the technique right.

You Don’t Understand the World Till You’ve Lived in it

For the first 18 years of life, we are mostly protected by our parents, as we live with them and go to school, and things are planned out for us. For these reasons, our worlds are small, and we don’t have much figured out.

But once we move out, we have a whole new set of problems; we have to figure out what we will eat, wash our laundry, pay our bills, and everything else that we are responsible for. I don’t know about you, but I learnt a lot about myself when I went to university. It was my first time alone, and all my responsibilities were on my shoulders.

Even after college, I thought I had things sorted out, that I knew how to build websites and products, but I didn’t realize how wrong I was until I got my first job.

At that point, I discovered that I didn’t know anything about sorting through other people’s work or solving complex problems that came from other people’s demands.

Working in an office with other people was another challenge, too; at school, you might have a group assignment, but after it is done, you move on.

At work, that doesn’t happen, and you have to keep working with the same people, even if you don’t get along.

When I went to school, I thought I knew some stuff about life, but I didn’t; I was protected before and had to figure out many new things quickly.

At my first job, I thought I knew my trade, but it turned out I was wrong, and I had a lot to learn.

Even today, I’m learning more and more about how to do all sorts of things by simply doing them. Having a kid is a challenge; you can take some classes at the hospital before they arrive, but that doesn’t answer many of your questions once you have to take them home.

So much of what we know comes from life experience; it doesn’t matter what you read or what someone teaches you; you only ever really learn what to do once you start doing it yourself for real.

See The World and Open Your Mind

Life experience is important because it is the only way we can learn about things; going to school gets stuff in our heads, but it doesn’t always help us do practical things.

We can learn all about the world from shows or books or the internet, but we never truly know those places until we visit them. At one point, I spent a year in Korea; it was the first time I was away from the things I knew as everything was new. But during that year, I learn a lot about myself; I also gained tons of confidence and got over a lot of my shyness.

No matter how much you study for something, you don’t know what it is all about until your try.

When I was in Korea, I had to learn how to make friends, feed myself every day, get around without speaking the language and everything else that it takes to survive. That year was life-changing, partly because I was in a new place but also because of all the new experiences I was forced to deal with and figure out.

When we force ourselves into new situations, we have no choice but to develop quick solutions. While we are learning about a new place, we are also learning about ourselves.

The funny thing is that most of the time, we live mechanically, so we don’t need to think a lot about who we are. But once we are in a highly novel situation, we have to step back and think, who am I? What should I do?

If anything, I’d say I learnt more about myself while travelling on my own than I did after years of living at home.

Authentic experiences are the best way to learn because we have no choice but to embrace what we are faced with. The only way to figure out who you are is to go out into the world and have experiences where you are forced to make choices and figure out how to do things.

Experience is the best teacher because experience is the only way to truly learn.

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Robert Carr

Over the years, I've learnt to see things in a different light. This website is my place to share those insights and give my unique perspective on living a meaningful life.

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