Experience’s Danger

The reason pilots debrief a flight after landing is to see what lessons the experience can offer.  The end goal being to use the lessons learned to improve their performance during the next flight.  A continual striving, as it were.  But, at its core, experience is not an exclusively positive thing.  If left unquestioned, it can have negative consequences too.  Seasoned pilots know this all too well.

I’m talking about the danger in mistaking the current situation to be the same as a past experience.  For pilots, this occurs most when troubleshooting a malfunction.  Pilots have a tendency to enjoy being able to say, “Oh, that’s nothing to worry about, I’ve seen it before.”  However, choosing a course of quickly reaching a conclusion without proper evaluation of the situation can create larger problems down the road.  For pilots in the air, this course, if uninterrupted, leads to death.  While grounded people don’t face immediate death for mistaking “this” for “that”, the result is definitely unpleasant.

Who can’t relate to this lesson?  I’ve had many, many arguments with loved ones that only after they went to great pains to rephrase and re-rephrase their point did I realize, “Hey, while it seemed like they just wanted to re-hash some past grievance, it actually turns out they aren’t thinking about it at all.”  I then experience the wonderful feeling of dumbfounded shame.  All the energy I had been putting into the argument up to that point was misguided.  Instead of devaluing their position and jumping to the conclusion that this was the “same ol’, same ol'”, I should have given them the benefit of the the doubt and really listened.

Ask yourself, “Have I ever actually been hurt because I gave the benefit of the doubt to the other person until more information could be gathered?”  Unlike pilots, who have a strict and short time-table to work with, I have seen no reason to act under the guise that life has a time table.  We can take all the time in the world to hear each other out.  In fact, that might lead to a longer life in the end anyhow.

I can hear a few of you right now, “But that’s the thing… I really don’t have the time to deal with (Insert your favorite combatant).”  Hmm.  Sure.  Okay.  We’ll do it your way then.  Instead of being patient and seeking understanding, which has been proven time and again to result in strengthening relationships (regardless the outcome of that particular discussion), let’s rush to a bad decision.  Come to think of it, I now see why you want to rush to a bad decision.  If I rush to a bad decision, I will then have even more time for even more rushed, bad decisions based on misunderstandings.  Just think about how many bad decisions I’ll be able to make in one lifetime if I hurry!  Sorry, no.  I’ll take my cues from pilots.  If their unique and ongoing relationship with death teaches them to gather all the data before making a decision, rather than forcing the current problem to look like a past experience, then I, too, will  treat every situation as unique until proven otherwise.

What about you?  How will you use this experience?


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