I have not lived long, but something I have learned is that life will either chew you up and spit you out or you can let it be your teacher and become more able to take life on.
Growing up in the corn fields of southern Minnesota, my brother and I had plenty of time to venture out. We were active boys full of imagination with a decent size world as our stomping ground. In today’s culture we would have been considered free range children. I spent most of my growing up years in a small town called Rapidan. It consisted of one intersection, two churches, and a bike trail that if you chose to ride its course through the country, five miles later you’d end up in a nearby city which possessed the name Mankato. My brother Judah and I would spend hours and hours going up and down this trail to a nearby train trestle which had been converted for the use of this public trail. Under this bridge we would attempt to build small dams, catch animals, and carve our names and other things into the side of the sandstone cliffs lining the small riverside. I find that this time of being a boy who managed countless hours of manual labor all in the name of play and fun to be so profound. I learned skills that no classroom ever taught me. The mechanical process of overcoming the many problems we faced is something that has served me well as an electrician. We built small dams, forts, dropped huge rocks off the bridge, and the list of small enjoyable accomplishments just keeps going and going.
The following years of my life were filled with many fun encounters. Once I graduated from high school I started a journey around the U.S. to do some soul searching. The hardship, encounters with countless individuals, and years of an empty bank account taught me things that the sheltered realm of a southern Minnesotan boy was incapable of. Life experience, I came to find out, was the best teacher I had ever had. No sermon or lecture I had listened to really empowered me for what life had to offer. So I started to subject myself to situations where I was uncomfortable because I knew that the lessons I would learn from them were something no one could take or impart to me.
The reason I am detailing this account of my childhood into young adulthood is to let people know that learning is not just an experience you have within the confines of a classroom. I have found that when I am eager for new knowledge all aspects of my life can teach me something if I’m willing to receive it. I wish I had learned this earlier on. I had spent years telling myself that only valid learning was done in a classroom setting and that thought process simply is just not true. In this oversaturated, education driven society I felt what I was learning was not the whole picture. This concept started to take shape as I dove further into being an electrician. Yes, there were books involved to understand electricity better, but I found that the skills I applied the most in my job were not coming from a book or classroom experience, rather I found that I was responding to the pressures and stress of the job through what I had learned in the thicket of normal life, tromping through those southern Minnesota cornfields. I realized the art of learning from life was a commodity that was more valuable than cold glass of water on a hot day.
This posture of being humble enough to let life teach me lessons is something that I hope to take on more and more as I grow old. I am starting to believe that the true art of learning lessons from life is simply this: set aside my own pride and admit I don’t have all the answers. I have found when I wholly accept this principle in its entirety I grow leaps and bounds. It reminds me of when I started learning the Russian fighting style of Systema. I had never done any form of fighting before in my life, outside of wrestling with my brothers and childhood friends. Walking into a small, padded gym with a couple unique guys pounding on each other was super intimidating. I had never punched anyone in my life let alone intentionally thought about how to do it. I walked in there completely aware that I knew absolutely nothing. I felt extremely insecure. As the weeks went on, sparring constantly, I found out how much I loved it. What surprised me most, though, was how much this skill translated into other areas of my life. I guess the moral of the story is this: eat your pride and let your experiences be the teacher. Be aware of what is happening around you and observe how things are. That is my personal goal. May my life teach me lessons no book ever will.
I would love to hear your thoughts and stories! If you get a chance, please share!!!