I spotted this quote somewhere recently and it struck a chord with me –“The trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam often comes first and then the lesson.” (Anonymous)
How true is that! Much of what we learn in life comes to us right after a failure or a mistake. One might say that much of wisdom is built on the bumps and bruises of life. Some things we can learn out of books or be taught about in classes, but it is through experiences that we truly build wisdom.
The whole trial and error process is a key component of the Scientific Method that we hear about so often. Scientists come up with a hypothesis or theory and then design tests of trials to either prove or disprove those theories. Even medicine works that way, with clinical trials conducted to test the efficacy of drugs that “in theory” should work against a particular disease or condition. It is through those clinical trials that the drugs side effects are uncovered and they are evaluated as risks or downsides against the positive effects of the drug.
The learning process doesn’t always have to be painful; however, it almost always results from failures. So, taking steps to reduce the pain of a failure and at least trying to learn from them is a valuable use of your time. The Scientific Method tries to make it easier to learn from a trial or experiment by reducing the number of variables that could impact the outcome. That is a factor in why drug trials can be so hard to get into. Your medical history or even your genetic makeup may place you outside of the factors that the scientists are trying to control.
In normal day-to-day life we may “test the waters” for things like asking for a raise or maybe asking someone out on a date. We may also try to do things, perhaps without thinking them through, and fail at it. If we use that experience to learn we are building our wisdom. If we just keep making the same attempt over and over, without change; well, that’s just crazy.
So, live your life with an awareness that every day is an experience that we can learn from, every interaction with another person is an opportunity to learn, and every decision that you make is a trial that could result in an error or an unexpected outcome. Learn from the results of those decisions. Maybe, instead of using experience as a guide for life you should use experience as the goal of life – get out there and experience it – the wisdom will come later.
And don’t worry about life’s final exam – you have already been given the answer to that test by Jesus. Everybody who believes passes that test.