April 29

Always listen to the
experts.  They'll tell you
what can't be done and
why.  Then do it.

Robert Heinlein


Today's Meditation:

Some of the most important teachers in my life have been people who have paid no mind to what others said could and could not be done.  I grew up focused on limitations, on doing things the ways they should be done, on avoiding the things that were impossible.  I've learned, though, that almost nothing is impossible, and those people have taught me never to look at a task or an obstacle and ask myself, "Can I do that?"  Instead, I've learned to ask myself, "How can I make that happen?"  I'm not always successful, but at least I try, and I am successful much more often than some people expect me to be.

Robert has hit an important nail on the head for most of us.  We tend to listen to what other people say and accept it far too quickly and easily.  I've heard people tell me not to hike on certain trails because they're too difficult--then I've gone and done them and found them to be not at all hard.  I've listened to people tell me that certain students won't be able to read well or write well, and then I've seen those students blossom into quite decent readers and writers.

One incident that sticks in my mind is a conversation I had with a college freshman who was one of the best writers I worked with at that particular college.  She told me that when she was in high school, an English teacher told her that she would never be a good writer.  And he was the expert, right?  But there she was in college, writing papers that were stronger than those of 95% of her peers.  It's a good thing that she didn't listen to him!

Very often, people will make a claim based on their theories, not upon experience or first-hand knowledge.  It's worth our while to doubt those people, especially if we truly want to do something special.  Almost everything that has been deemed impossible, from flight to running a four-minute mile to having personal computers has been called impossible by someone.  Always consider the source of such a claim, and with all due respect, ignore it and move ahead.  You may not succeed the first time, but you most certainly will learn a lot of important lessons that you wouldn't learn otherwise.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often take the word of experts as the gospel truth, and allow what they say to guide our actions?

What kinds of things have you done that other people thought you couldn't do?  How did it feel to accomplish those things? 

How many experts make claims based on theory rather than on experience?  What does that fact mean to us?

For further thought:

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others,
for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you.
Act for yourself!  Face the truth.

Katherine Mansfield


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