Learn by Watching

Human beings are clever.  What’s more, we delight in demonstrating our cleverness, seeking credit for the rare facts or special skills we presume to hold.  The problem with our eagerness to impress is that it necessarily robs us of opportunities to discover new ways to do things or unique ideas that can inform our own views.

Accept that in any conversation or communal exercise, there will be imbalance.  There will be those who monopolize the conversation.  In the case of a wise elder sharing the depth of their experience, this is wholly natural.  But we see it also in situations where people are decidedly less sage.

When the task is a non-urgent one, the advantage of real benefit goes to the persons willing to concede the floor, as there is always more to be gained by listening than by talking, by watching than by acting.

Imagine that after a long day’s hike it is time to batten down the camp.  Before the sun sets, food provisions must be bear-proofed.  There is lack of enthusiasm to attend to this duty, and each member of the party has a different idea about how best to accomplish it.  In your mind, the solution is clear:  a simple knot tied around a baseball-sized stone will carry your line over a high limb to enable hoisting your provisions out of ursine reach.  But ask yourself this — if you step up and quickly solve the need at hand, what will you have gained?  Secure food supply, sure.  But by taking one step back instead of racing forward, you may miss an approach to the dilemma that is unexpected, thought-provoking, and, quite possibly, even more clever.  By becoming a self-nominated observer, you gain knowledge.  By being a results-focused authority you gain nothing.