Old Experiences and New Learning

We learn best by opening ourselves to experiences, sometimes new, sometimes repeatedly.

Last week I took Friday off, as a bit of a break from the office and in preparation for an unusually busy set of weeks and months ahead. I visited the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), their exhibition,Capturing the Moment, and walked portions of the San Antonio River Walk.

It wasn’t my first trip to SAMA or this portion of the river walk, and it certainly wasn’t my first sunny spring day wandering San Antonio with a camera in hand.

Nonetheless, I took over 200 pictures, sometimes of things I’ve taken pictures of dozens of times before. I got some right, and I got plenty wrong. Some of my shots came out well, and others were ruined by a spot on my camera’s lens that I didn’t notice until it was too late. Others weren’t what I had hoped because I relied entirely on the camera’s automatic mode to make lighting and shutter speed decisions for me.

The best part? It rained and rained and rained the next day, forcing me into a state of boredom and curiosity that led me to finally understand the more advanced features of my camera, a topic I’d approached and failed to grasp many times before. I practiced with dozens of boring photos indoors of fruit, coffee cups, and whatever I could get my hands on. I opened the door to a new approach to taking photos (new for me), one that gives me far more control.

Had I visited a new part of town on Friday I would have been enamored by the newness of it all. I would have taken hundreds of photos to document the visit, focusing little on the how and why of each. Instead, by repeating an experience, I was more patient and noticed things that I’d probably skipped many times before.

New experiences are amazing, but sometimes we need to repeat our experiences to be fully open to learning, to making connections with other concepts.

Sometimes, noticing the detail on a path you’ve walked many times before is the key to a breakthrough in how you do things.

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