"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." — Confucius
My high school English teacher, Mr. Fuller, gave us an assignment to write a speech with the topic of “Life Lessons.” I don’t remember everything that I wrote for that speech, but I do remember being chosen to compete in the local speech contest, and I also remember winning that contest! The victory aside, what I do remember is that the overall takeaway message from my talk was this: To understand Life’s lessons we have to live them. Simply hearing and seeing won’t do; rather, it is only in doing that understanding becomes possible.
As proof of this we only have look at the restaurant patrons. The first thing they do after the waiter or waitress tells them that their plate is hot is touch the plate! We don’t understand until we do it, until we experience it for ourselves. That’s why any serious career requires a probationary period for training, and that’s why internships are encouraged, and that’s why we have student teachers and medical students. We can read all we want to gain a foundation, but that only prepares us to finally enter the arena where our real learning will take place.
The Magic Word Understand reminds us to seek not so much to be understood, but rather to understand—to understand our fellow brothers and sisters, our team, the members of our community, the circumstances that surround us. When we do, we realize what the physicist Marie Curie meant when she said there is nothing to fear, rather only things to be understood.
Think of something you’re afraid of. What can you do to understand it better? Think of someone you don’t like. Make a commitment to get to know them better.
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.