It is difficult to face every situation with a smile. I’ve discovered one trick that helps make even the toughest moments in life acceptable: approach every situation – good or bad – as an opportunity to learn. It may not turn coal into cheesecake, but at least you can walk away with the most important spoil of war: a life lesson. Few people will help you navigate life this way. It’s up to you to step back from the situation, take notes and review. The more you reflect on life’s lessons, the more prepared you will be to tackle any problem. With the poise and experience to tackle any problem, you may yet find yourself less unhappy and more excited by all that life has to offer.
We all have a lot to learn from elders. Even from a young age, I embraced relationships with older people. Many peers accused me of sucking up to adults, but they missed the point entirely. I enjoyed the company and exposure to the experiences of older people. By engaging with adults, I picked up on a lot of necessary skills, knowledge and behavior that continue to help me in social and professional circles. Sure, relationships with mentors help personalize education and augment exposure to curriculum outside the mainstream. Sure, relationships with babysitters and supervisors help reinforce a level of trust that enables freedoms most subservients fail to earn. I developed relationships with superiors that accelerated my success and opened doors otherwise unbeknownst to me. To this day, I embrace and pursue relationships with people – regardless of age. Young or old, it doesn’t matter. The older you get, the less age matters. Age only matters with liquor and cheese.
We have explicit memory for a reason. Where most animals only have implicit memory for motor skills, human beings have a declarative memory that helps us record autobiographical, semantic and episodic information. We can remember how to do more than just walk and eat. We developed these skills to gain a competitive advantage against other species and humans who could not share our memories and experiences past. Simply put: “I learned things through experience that you do not know and that makes me better than you.” In a gnarly world of job applications and qualifications, “experience” means everything.
Experience does not end in employment land. Street smarts come from street experiences. Book smarts come from book experiences. We consume life and literature everyday, and much of what we consume gets logged in our brains.
Individuals often resist dwelling or revisiting bad experiences or periods of shame. They block episodes from memory, drink them away or refuse to share them with others. That’s a waste. While I understand that mistakes are not necessarily glamorous things to share with the public, you have an opportunity to help close friends and family learn from your mistakes. You can contribute to a collective memory and help the species last. We have memories for a reason – do not waste them. And do not let them die with you. Do not run from the past; embrace it as a gift. Any memory, good or bad, makes you the character that you are and gives you a competitive advantage in some way. Learn to stop hiding and love the past.