What We Learned Here…

By Michael

I had the opportunity to spend some time on the radio last week, doing an interview about life lessons and taking calls from listeners. We didn’t get a lot of calls in our short time on the air—some loudmouth was monopolizing the conversation to drive book sales—but it was interesting to see what the listeners wanted to discuss.


One caller remembered a classmate who cheated him in high school. One wanted to talk about a student who allowed all his classmates to be punished rather than admit to a misdeed. As adults, these people cited youthful years as a great source of lessons.

They were right, of course, Most of the great insights that resonate with us come from some trauma of our early years. And, yes, it’s usually a trauma, because our immature minds don’t have the capacity to glean deep meaning without pain. We can memorize multiplication tables and remember when Columbus discovered Antarctica—or was it Autralia??—without anyone hitting us over the head. It takes more powerful stuff, though, to teach us meaning.

I am tempted to say it takes a bully to raise a child. Bullies teach us all kinds of survival skills that translate quite nicely into workplace, marriage and carpool conflicts. Losing a game teaches us more memorable lessons than winning. Getting an F is a bigger motivator than getting an A-plus. It’s not as much fun, but it can be more fundamental.

Experience might be the best teacher, but bad experience is the best of the best, if we find a way to mine the meaning and carry it forward. When there’s a problem—not that my daughters ever faced any problems, of course—the best question to ask isn’t Why? Far more important to ask, What did you learn from this?

One of my favorite clients would say, “We’ve paid the tuition. Now let’s get the value of our education.” He knew he couldn’t avoid failures in his company, but he hoped he could avoid having people repeat their mistakes.

Even now, with the girls out of the house and living absolutely perfect, elegant, deliriously happy lives of glamour and high self esteem, we’ll talk every so often about the big question: Now what?

Even when they’re very young, our kids can find interesting answers to this critical question.

Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

4 Responses to What We Learned Here…
  1. Kim
    June 15, 2010 | 2:40 pm

    Thanks for the great post Michael. In the wise words of my 3 year old:
    “What next Micah?”
    “Lets get ice cream Mommy.”

    Never a truer word spoken – learn the lesson, then move on and enjoy the sweet of life.

  2. edpilolla
    June 15, 2010 | 6:15 pm

    pain is a great teacher. and so is trauma. but many people don’t ever recover from early childhood trauma. not just the super horrible stuff, but sometimes just bullying.
    all experiences are good experiences. yeah, i believe that. but whether humans indeed grow from these experiences is a high stakes gamble with many lost souls never finding the way.
    excellent post. rich food for thought.

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