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The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 07:21 AM   #1
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The most educational time of your life?

Friedrich Nietzsche stated "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Admittedly he had a somewhat pessimistic life view, but nothing nails down classroom education as well as the subsequent experiences obtained from applying that education. I spent nearly 18 years of a 24-year military career in some form of training, either doing it or having it done to me, and all of that education just laid the foundation for the real learning. I wouldn't have survived the latter without the former, but I think we tend to put too much value on the classroom part.

Maybe it's a nuclear engineering paranoia, but I also think that you learn NOTHING when events go according to plan. In fact it's worse than that. You actually begin to believe that you're in control of a plan and you tend to overlook Murphy's Law-- you actually get dumber when things go well. So my most educational moments have happened during the worst times of my life.

Anyone care to cite specific examples to affirm or contrast with this opinion?
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Re: The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 07:51 AM   #2
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Re: The most educational time of your life?

My most educational moments have happened during the worst times of my life. Anyone care to cite specific examples to affirm or contrast with this opinion?

I used to write songs that I played on my guitar. There was a recession going on when I finished school, and I wasn't able to find a job for a long time. I was depressed, not sleeping well, gaining weight, etc. But I wrote the best songs that I have ever written during this time of my life! I was churning them out so fast that I didn't bother to write some of them down because it seemed like I could come up with another one anytime I wanted.

Not all the songs were downers, by the way. A good number were optimistic songs. But there was something about being in a down time of my life that prompted me to view things in new ways and thereby to churn out all these new combinations of words.

I read an interview with Willie Nelson where he said something that suggests it is not just me. He was asked why on his most recent albums he wasn't including songs of his own when he had written so many good ones in earlier days. He said that writing new songs was just too painful an experience to go through. So, unless he absolutely had to do it, he was going to elect not to.

No one chooses to go through a down time because of the educational experience it brings. But we do sometimes learn somthing new by being put through hell. I think it is because being put through hell prompts us to reexamine old beliefs.
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Re: The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 08:08 AM   #3
 
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Re: The most educational time of your life?

First Nords, I agree completely with your theory.
Some examples of difficult times where significant learning resulted for me:

Being hired at age 20 for a position clearly beyond my
abilities at the time.

Putting my entire net worth on the line to buy a
business (that will focus your attention).

Seeing friends and relatives die at relatively young ages.

Going through a divorce.

Spending way more time than the average person in court, both as a plaintiff and defendant.

Jumping off the cliff into ER with little preparation.

You can study this stuff until you are blue, but when you
actually make the leap; then the learning will truly begin.

BTW, I agree with Nietzsche

JG





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Re: The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 08:14 AM   #4
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Re: The most educational time of your life?

I too have found that the most personal educational experiences of my life have been during very difficult times. When things were at their worst, I've learned the most about myself, what I'm capable of, what kind of person I'd like to be, and the kind of life I'd like to have....

I've learned lots of "things", gained knowledge, developed skills, and stockpiled lots of information over my life...but the most important things, (ie: how to live) have been learned during times of duress....

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Re: The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 09:35 AM   #5
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Re: The most educational time of your life?

I used to entertain myself by coming up with theories of learning. One of my theories is that two of the strongest memory/learning aids are suffering (or, more precisely, figuring out how to overcome imminent obstacles) and novelty. I try to apply this theory to my 22-month old kid by exposing her to novel and uncomfortable situations whenever I can (which turns out to be pretty often -- poor kid). I'll let you know how the experiment turns out
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Re: The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 11:34 AM   #6
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Re: The most educational time of your life?

Yes, generally the most educational times have been unhappy events or embarassing / humiliating situations.

My most educational time was split happy & unhappy: my months off work. On the one hand I really enjoyed not working and filled my time with all sorts of fun, but I had known for a while before being out of work that my finances were going poorly. That prompted me to spend a lot of time reading books and surfing the internet to learn more.

I think my most educationl time is yet to come, though. I have a lot of things in order, but I've never been married or had kids.
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Re: The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 02:11 PM   #7
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Re: The most educational time of your life?

As a 2LT in the army who had been in Vietnam for 24 hours I began to get educated.

I was sipping a beer with a few other guys, who were on their way home the next few day or so, in the "officer's club" of a battalion of the First Infantry Division. They had 2 days left, I had 364 left. I mentioned that the distant thunder sounded like we were in for some rain soon. The conversation suddenly stopped and one fella said "Hey man, that's not thunder, that's a B-52 strike that they are putting in about 10 miles from here."

At that moment (I recall it as if it were yesterday) all of the stuff that I had learned in my 23 years of life seemed insignificant compared to what I was to learn in the next 364 days.

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Re: The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 02:30 PM   #8
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Re: The most educational time of your life?

Quote:
At that moment (I recall it as if it were yesterday) all of the stuff that I had learned in my 23 years of life seemed insignificant compared to what I was to learn in the next 364 days.
Wow, that's the kind of sentence that would make me buy a book I was browsing at the bookstore.

Not to trivialize your experience, but that's an extreme example of novelty. I went from a rural high school to a top university and felt the same way -- completely uprooted my value system and exposed me to a new universe. But probably unlike you, I loved every minute of it.
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Re: The most educational time of your life?
Old 01-06-2005, 04:36 PM   #9
 
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Re: The most educational time of your life?

My reservations were set for Viet Nam, but I wiggled and
zigged until the boat sailed without me. Not sorry I missed it. I have many friends who were there and they all have one thing in common. They don't talk much about it. They must have fabulous (or horrifying)
stories, but not one has ever opened up with me.
Oh, they will dance around the edges and give you tiny
glimpses, but that's it. Even the little tidbits I have picked
up can be made into great stories. I guess they are
only "great stories" if you were not actually there.

JG
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