Sunday, May 16, 2010

Live & Learn or Learn & Live

Regret making a mistake? But didn't you choose to take a chance and wanted to learn on your own which way the tide turns? Then why regret - learn and grow.

How many times in our lives we are at crossroads where the first choice we have is doing the known, following advice our parents gave us, heeding to the warnings our friends show us, respecting conventional wisdom. The other choice says if you decide to take this one, you'll go through certain experiences, good and bad, certain events, predictable and unpredictable, and this road may end up converging and/or intersecting with the first one at some points, but there are no guarantees or certainties of whether this will take you north or south, be successful or not (or make you redefine what success means to you).

We often choose the latter and decide that we are not the ones to walk down the discovered path. After all we all grew up on Frost recommending to us: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." 
There is a little bit of an explorer and investigator in all of us, but especially our generation feels empowered and supported in quests of the unknown by our family, society and own confidence. Add to that that some people already have a heightened love for adventure and a spirit to take risks. 

But then, fast forward a few days, weeks or months and we realize our choice didn't unfold the way we expected it to. We had taken a (hopefully) calculated risk and expected things to be at least close to a certain point we had envisioned in our heads. But now, we are full of regret. We wonder what if we had never driven on that road. We hope for a second chance to go back and choose the first option (now that we know where the second one takes us and we don't like it). Why do we forget the very important choice we had made - not just to live and to experience, but to live and learn and to grow organically. We lived, but we forget we were supposed to live to learn.

Not just learn that this road lands us here, but learn roads like these have risks. Learn whether it is in our nature to take risks. Learn which areas of our lives we'd like to take in risks. Learn that calculations are based on assumptions and we may or may not have the ability to calculate correctly and envision the outcome(s). Learn both exploration as well as embracing convention have their importance in life. Learn that Robert Frost's poem was written almost a century ago when people were more averse to risk by nature than our society and its youth is today.

Our generation's natural instincts are to choose the unknown and say times have changed, we are different, knowledge is conventional, we want to carve our own path. Sure - nothing wrong with that, as long as you are truly making that choice based on calculated risks and not emotional impulses. But once you're done, don't forget to take the lesson because you're so engrossed in what you lived - positive or negative - that you forget to learn - positive or negative. And if you decide the former path was more your cup of tea in this sphere of your life, remember that just because something has already been discovered, you don't need to *always* challenge yourself to reinvent the wheel. (A note of warning: just because you chose to explore and it didn't work out the way you envisioned it to, don't sway to the other extreme just because of one-time failure.)

For som, coming from a family of doctors may mean that they choose to take the proven path to success, but this same person might decide to plunge in adventure by dating unconventionally. Yet some others may decide they want to challenge the status quo of how success is defined and would rather be an entrepreneur or an artist, but given the other risks in their life, they are happy to be less adventurous in their choice of a launching platform. There are also those who have the appetite to explore both and others that choose neither adventure. None of these are the "right" way to live life but when you do make these choices, don't ignore the lessons learned from them because exploration doesn't happen for its own sake, but rather to make a discovery. (On the same note: Risks aren't taken for its own sake, so choose wisely by understanding the rewards and its probabilities.)

I'll just close by saying, "Our growth depends not on how many experiences we devour, but on how many we digest." (Ralph W. Sockman)

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