I learned a valuable and important lesson this week.
A few years ago I became a distributor for a series of assessment tools that I have been using in my day job as both a coach and a consultant.
The contract for the distributorship contained a clause that all new distributors attend a two-day training program at the company’s hometown of Minneapolis within six months of acquiring a distributorship.
At the time of entering into the contract I had either not noticed that clause, or had assumed that attendance at this course was merely a suggestion and not an ironclad requirement.
Several months later I was contacted by lady from the company asking when I was planning on attending this introductory training program and I managed to stall by pleading a really busy schedule.
I was hoping that the call would be the only call and that I would not hear from her again but unfortunately this lady was persistent and called several times until I ran out of new or credible excuses to offer.
My reluctance to attending this training program was born of the fact that I had been using some of this company’s assessment tools for more than 10 years. A close colleague in my office is a long-time distributor and she had been making these tools available to me whenever I wished to use them.
Another reason for my reluctance was that I truly believed, having used these tools for as long and as often as I have, that attendance at this program would simply be a waste of time as I was quite convinced that my familiarity with these assessments was such that I would be bored to tears during those two days by being introduced to information that was old hat to me.
So off I went to Minneapolis.
And boy was I wrong.
Those two days were filled with fascinating new information. In fact, so much information that I think my head is still swimming. I learned a great deal about each of those products that was absolutely new to me and, perhaps more importantly, I also learned how much of what I “already knew” of those products was either completely wrong or incomplete.
At the end of the second day as I was reflecting on how valuable this workshop had been to me I was reminded of the old days, not all that many years ago, when most of our music came to us via cassette tapes.
And we would make a copy from an original – a friend would make a copy for us – and then we would use our copy – the new “original” – to make a copy for another friend. And sometimes that friend would use their copy as an original to make additional copies and so on.
And each time we did that we diluted the quality of that music. We made it less than it originally was.
I realized exactly the same thing had happened to me. I had learned about these assessments from people with no formal training who had, in turn, been taught by others with no formal training and so key pieces of information had been lost in the passing of this information from one “original” to another.
And I have been passing this diluted information along to my clients.
I came home on Thursday night somewhat humbled, certainly less arrogant, and unquestionably wiser for having learned a valuable lesson.
The lesson I learned is this: The value of knowledge comes from what we learn after we already know everything.
I know I’m not alone in having made this mistake. I know many of us have made the same one. We have presumed that we already have a body of knowledge that is sufficient to tide us through when in fact, upon exposure to an even greater, or more recent/accurate body of knowledge, we come to realize how little we truly knew.
Over these past few years we have frequently had discussions around what we believe to be true, and that what we believe to be true is quite simply nothing more than our opinion, which may well have no basis in fact.
We tend to believe that our opinions do represent fact when, in fact, our opinions represent nothing more than what we believe to be true.
As much as I unquestionably believe this to be true, and as much as I advocate for this, the lesson I learned this week was that my truth about my knowledge of this range of assessments represented nothing more than erroneous assumptions.
Boy, is my face red.
I’m so thankful to that delightful lady who insisted that I take this training and am equally thankful to my wife, Gimalle, who, in her always loving and supportive manner, charmingly pointed out to me, several weeks ago when I was whining about attending this program, that “No, you don’t, I fact, know everything.”
The important lesson here for all of us is not that we need to continually take courses to upgrade our knowledge and skills – although, clearly, doing so is highly recommended – the lesson is that we remain open to new thoughts, ideas and suggestions even when they are in direct opposition to what we hold to be true.
To learn something is not necessarily to agree with it but when we refuse to be open to the possibility of new information we are placing sad limitations on our own thinking and possibly denying ourselves powerful and enriching new experiences.
That’s a fact and I am not open to discussing it any further.
Till we read again.
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