Thriving Together Series: A Learner’s Perspective and Well-Being

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By: Ethan Carter, Associate Director of Programs, Well-Being, & Assessment, Mason Recreation

Rediscovering the experience of inexperience is a way to counteract the misleading and potentially life-threatening feeling of knowing.” – Francesca Gino

Most of us can think of a time where we faced an issue or problem that couldn’t be solved. Then someone who had little or even no experience with the situation came along and pointed us to a solution. The presence of that individual blessed us with a taste of the “experience of inexperience.”

An inexperienced individual is less tied to existing viewpoints and ideas as to how a situation should be resolved. The loosening of those ties allows an inexperienced person to explore the issue and consider fresh solutions that someone who is an expert may never consider because he or she is so familiar with the circumstances.

As experts in certain topics, we can overlook the value of an outside perspective. Solving problems that relate to those topics can become an automatic process for us. We may forget about what it was like to not know. We assume the learning that brought us to our current destination was knowledge that we always had. We can enhance our well-being when we remember what it was like to be inexperienced.

Why should we take a dive into the realm of inexperience? Inexperience provides an opportunity to humbly take the posture of a learner. A learner does not know it all. A learner approaches the unknown with excitement. He or she courageously invites fresh perspectives, welcomes the challenge to find another way, and is willing to move away from past assumptions.

In her book Rebel Talent, Francesca Gino references this study by Harvard Business School’s Karim Lakhani and his colleagues that shares how non-experts can impact problem solving. Here is a Nightline news story that takes a look at collaboration and the development of new ideas in a unique working environment that encouraged employees to think outside of the box.

The hunger to learn opens the door to the unknown and encourages further personal growth. It invites the perspectives of others as we navigate to find solutions to the challenges we all face in life. There is always space to grow through learning, no matter how much knowledge we already have in certain areas.

Practice: Learning through Inexperience

  • Take the time to reflect on your experience. A quote from John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential that I like is, “Reflection takes an experience and turns it into insight.”
  • Be willing to ask others for help in an attempt to gain a fresh perspective.
  • Seek out dialogue with others when seeking to generate new ideas. You can do this by asking other people about their perspective or how they arrived at their suggested idea.
  • Consider reaching out to someone you trust with views different from your own to challenge your thought process.
  • Consider walking through your thought process again with the goal of solving the issue differently than you had considered before.
  • Consider what biases that you have (intentional and unintentional) and how they could influence your thought process.

Additional Resources

Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing by Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Witzler

Better Conversations: Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected by Jim Knight

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