Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

The Best Way to Learn How to Live a Better Story

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“How many shirts did you pack?”


“Is that enough?” I asked.

“Yes,” my said son.

“Okay,” I said. “Do you need anything else? Did you forget anything?”

“I got it, Dad,” he said.

“Okay. Have a good trip.”

Learning through Experience

A week ago Sunday I dropped my son off at the church where his boy scout troop meets on a weekly basis. We pulled up in the parking lot filled with adolescent boys in tan and green uniforms. He picked up his tote out of the back of my car and carried to a truck waiting for him to load it.

I didn’t ask anymore questions. I wanted to make sure he had everything he needed. I wanted to interfere, but I stopped.

I didn’t know everything he put in the tote. I hoped he packed soap and toothpaste. I hoped he packed a towel. I hoped he packed extra underwear. I hoped he packed everything he needed.

But I didn’t ask anymore questions because if he didn’t, then that might even be better than my telling him what to do.

The lessons we learn best are not the ones we are taught through words, but the ones we are taught through experience.

photo by James Wheeler (creative commons license)

photo by James Wheeler (creative commons license)

The Key to a Better Story

When choosing the story we want to live we often seek the advice of others. We read books about other people’s stories. We seek the counsel of  people who have gone before us. We search the internet for someone with similar experience.

Research is good. Information can be extremely helpful. Too often we do make mistakes that are avoidable. If someone has advice that can keep us from making a devastating decision, then listen.

But seeking out advice isn’t the difference maker. Knowing what you are doing before jumping in isn’t the key to successfully telling an amazing story.

Whether or not you live a better story depends less on what others think you should do or how much you know and more on you getting out there and doing it.

The Wrong Advice

The same goes with the stories we live. Too often we spend precious time and energy seeking advice. And too often the advice we are given is that we are not ready. Or we don’t know enough. Or we should never try something so ridiculous. Too often we are told the work we seek to do will be too much for us.

And too often we quit before we even begin. We never live the story we need to live. Sometimes it is out of fear. Sometimes it is out of “discretion” from wise counsel.

If somebody else tells us how to live it, then maybe we don’t learn the lesson. Maybe we don’t appreciate how important something is.

And if we learn something the hard way, maybe we learn it even better than if somebody had told us.

From this perspective our mistakes become beneficial. They present an opportunity to grow and learn.

If you can avoid mistakes, then do it. If you can make better choices, I can’t think of a reason you shouldn’t.

But don’t let being ready keep you from starting.

What He Forgot

I want to make sure my son was ready before going on this trip. I wanted to make sure he was completely prepared and that he had all the resources he needed. I wanted to make sure he was safe.

But more than that, I wanted him to go on the trip, ready or not.

I picked him up two days ago. Believe it or not, he was fine. He came back in one piece, one big dirty piece.

He also came back one step closer to becoming an independent, mature adult, which is what I as his dad want for him.

We talked about the new people he met. We talked about earning new merit badges. We talked about his desire to make Eagle Scout. We talked about the kids who go in trouble for bringing their cell phones. We talked about him giving a bag of M&M’s to somebody that looked homeless. We talked about Scuba diving.

He only briefly mentioned once that he wish he had packed another pair of pants. But even that didn’t really matter anymore.

Once he arrived home, the only thing that did matter was the experience.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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3 Replies

  1. Anand Meherwade

    True, everyone has to learn some or the other thing by experience. Though we have immense resources, we can only learn something only by experience.

  2. I love this, Jeremy. Experience, the good and the bad mixed equally, is the best teacher.

  3. Hard to keep are mouths shut sometimes when we want to protect our kids. Thanks for the illustration.

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