I watched my six year old Godson, JJ, go round and round on his new bike at the playground by his house on Sunday afternoon. He just recently started learning how to ride his bike without the training wheels. Another child came in a few minutes later with his bike. JJ, who already likes to speed, raced behind him saying “Hey kid! Let’s race!” I watched them ride for a bit, chat about something, and after a while the boy left the park with his mother.
JJ rode over to me for some water, and asked me very confused, “Yexy, that kid is 7 years old. Why doesn’t he know how to ride a bike without training wheels like me, and I’m ONLY six years old?” I often find that I have to take a moment to answer him, because he takes my words literally. After some thought, I answered, “Well, JJ, we all learn differently, and age doesn’t always mean that you’re all doing the same things. Maybe his mom was just able to purchase that bike, and your mom bought yours much sooner. I’m sure there’s something that he knows that maybe you haven’t learned yet. You never make fun of anyone if they’re not going at your pace.” Then he asks, “What does he know that I don’t?” I had to think quick, and said, “I’m not sure since I don’t know him, but I’m sure his mother teaches him lots of things like yours does.” Then I ushered him to go riding some more. Phew! This kid tends to ask a thousand follow up questions!
This made me reflect on learning, experience, opportunity, and age. I know to some people, reaching a particular age means that they must have a certain degree or title. They are upset when their bosses are younger. Some people also don’t like working with older folks who don’t have the same educational background, but were able to move up the ladder the hard way. Regardless, they constantly measure themselves against everyone and their success.
Most of my bosses have been much younger. However, I have always respected other people’s experience, career wise or in life events. They have had opportunities, that somehow I didn’t, or maybe I was too busy focusing on other things that at the time were important to me. However, I haven’t allowed their age deter me from learning from them. Until this day, they have been the best teachers that I have had in my career. I have also had the opportunity to learn from people who are much older, that don’t have the same educational background, but have managed to make things work and move up. They have been able to teach me to remain calm through out any type of situation. They’ve been through a lot, and show me that not everything deserves the energy. Some things are just common sense, no matter what your education or title is.
Although when it comes to life lessons, we learn them when we’re ready. Have you ever spent hours with someone, listening and guiding them through something, and then they turn around and do the opposite of what you advised? You feel as if you wasted your time. Why do you bother even saying anything? This is becasue when people come to you to talk or ask your opinion, they already have the answer. They just want someone to reiterate and affirm what they already know, or they just want to hear themselves through. Most of us need to process situations, look within, and then make the connections. This takes place as we are talking about the situation. Whether they are right or wrong is not really up to us to decide. They will do what is already in their hearts. However, this may be frustrating when that person is older. You think that they should know better! The reality is that they don’t. Most of us learn through experience, and sometimes we have to allow ourselves to go through it — no matter what age.
I believe that learning (or teaching) can be done at any time during our lives — the important thing is to keep growing. I always try to remember this quote from Paulo Coelho, “Walk neither faster nor slower than your own soul. Because it is your soul that will teach you the usefulness of each step you take.”