The other day on the drive to school, my 13-year-old talked about something he was working on. He said he had to explain whether it was firsthand or secondhand learning.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
He said, “Well, secondhand learning would be when someone teaches you a math formula. They have figured it out and are explaining it to you. Firsthand learning would be when you have to learn it yourself. Like riding a bike.”
That made me think about life. How many times do we learn things firsthand? Do we try skydiving or mountain climbing or a new style of dance? How many times do we go for it even though we might fail? Embracing the thrill of ‘getting it’ all on our own?
And how many times do we ‘take someone else’s word for it’? Whether it’s the way things go at work or at school or on a committee? How many times do we assume that the person who has the microphone is right and has more to offer than we might?
To squeeze the most out of life, we need to tip the scales towards firsthand learning. Give things a chance, try something new, and get up when we fall. It’s the only way to grow. As Heraclitus once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Remember that feeling the first time you got the pedals working and flew down the street on your bike, wind whipping through your hair? Me too. Now what new thing can you learn firsthand today?