A famous teaching by Mark Twain in his Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar says:
“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it, and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.”
Like practically all Twain-isms, this one is a gem. How often do we learn from an experience or a teaching but rather than stopping at the actual wisdom, take the lesson to a false conclusion?
A few quick examples:
- You buy something from a merchant and discover later that he was dishonest in his dealings with you.
The wisdom: Pay attention.
The false lesson: All merchants are cheats, so never trust any of them.
- You hear that it’s important to always speak truthfully to people when providing feedback.
The wisdom: Communicating truthfully is much more helpful to that person than saying only what they want to hear.
The false lesson: Your feedback must be conducted brutally, without tact or empathy. No need to frame it properly so that he or she will be encouraged rather discouraged.
- You learn that in sales persistence is important to success.
The wisdom: Don’t let the NO’s get you down. Keep plugging away. Work past the NO’s until you get to the YESes.
The false lesson: Keep calling the same person continually and annoying them.
As the Sages taught, “Who is wise? The one who learns from all others.”
Part of this wisdom is knowing the difference between the hot stove-lid… and the cold one.
What examples of true wisdom and false lessons can you share with us?
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I was sure that not accepting no in sales meant annoy them until they buy from you to make you go away. Of course, the short cut would be: “You can buy my widget for $XX or you can buy my piece of mind service for $YY and we won’t call you anymore.”
Yes, it is funny how that gets misinterpreted. Thanks for the wisdom Bob.
LOL! Thank you, Doug. Now, there’s a lesson! 😉
The old saying is that it is darkest just before the dawn.
The Wisdom: A good leader recognizes the light at the end of the tunnel as hope and continues to rally and encourage those around him/her.
The False Lesson: The light at the end of the tunnel must be a train so retreat before you get run over.
Bob, this blog got me thinking! Thank you.
Thank you, Gary. Always appreciate your fantastic leadership insights!
We all carry loads of unnecessary emotional baggage, precisely because of such “False Lessons”.
I have been working on mine for some years now, and the quality of my life is improving consistently.
Thank you for this post,
Osnat, thank you for your kind words about the post. And, thank you so much for sharing your personal story with us. I have a feeling it’s something that we all must work on!
This one’s a gem, Bob!
It’s taken a bit of time (and a few of your books), but after many years, I–like many others I suppose–have changed the way I work as and with a salesman. Instead of a zero-sum game, I realize a sale is a two way value street. And making sure the other person receives value from the transaction helps immeasurably with my own success–even if that means I don’t sell a thing. It requires some tongue-biting at times, but the extra effort is worth it for everyone. I wish we could practice this globally between countries and ideologies.
Joachim, thank you so much for your very kind feedback. Honored to you’ve found my books to be of value. And, I love you you put it: “a sale is a two way value street.” Awesome!
Great post, as always, Mr. Burg.
I decided to throw the provoked thoughts into my mental Vita-Mix.
What I came up with is that with the passage of time and notches added to the belt, experiences that delivered life lessons are often worth revisiting, put on a slide and positioned under a microscope to be closely, painstakingly re-examined.
Has the lesson changed? Is it still valid? Are both the TRUE and FALSE hypotheses intact? Does my “new reality” impact either the true wisdom or false lesson?
I am totally apolitical, but I always have enjoyed the old axiom…”If you are young and not a Democrat, something is wrong with your heart; if you are old and not a Republican, something is wrong with your head”.
I find lots of things are like dealing with grief. Maybe it never goes away completely, but one continues to circle it and come at it from different angles, and with each new approach there is rich possibility of new ways to cope, or learn and move forward.
I feel the same way about life lessons.
Phil, thank you for your always thought-provoking comments. What you wrote reminds me that, so often, it’s not that the lesson or wisdom changed…it’s that *we’ve* changed and grown. I love how you consistently go back and check the premises of your thinking. Fantastic!