When Trial and Error is Not a Good Way to Learn

Some people say that experience is the best teacher.

But learning only from your mistakes can be dangerous. Many times you want to benefit from the experiences of others, or what I call “Other People’s Mistakes” (or OPM). You can also look at it as benefiting from “Other People’s Success” but it’s the mistakes that seem to stand out the most.

The best way to walk next to Victoria Falls…is with someone who has done it before

Believe it or not, learning from OPM was exactly what I had on my mind as I stood less than 2 feet on slippery rocks from the edge of the thundering Victoria Falls in Zambia Livingston. I wondered how I got there (which is a funny story…although my wife didn’t agree at the time…if you really want to know about it you’ll have to ask me) and I wondered how many people had made it across safely. And most of all I was thrilled that there was a sure footed guide who was pointing out exactly where to step, and who was holding onto my elbow all the way. Of course, it helped me to see that he was only a foot away from the edge of the falls, with his back to the falls looking at me…and still smiling.

I knew things were going to be ok. Our guide had been there before. He knew what he was doing, and I trusted him.

While visiting our son who was with the Peace Corps in South Africa, he took a break from his village and we all went up to Livingston Falls. Also known as “the cloud that thunders” Livingston Falls was spectacular! We enjoyed hiking around the falls, and onto the Knife’s Edge island where we were drenched by the never ending spray that poured over the edge of the falls and created a spectacular gorge.

Of course, I’m a softy for waterfalls anyways. My favorite here in North Carolina is definitely Linville Falls, and I’ve taken many a detour in the mountains to find an out-of-the-way waterfall. Truth be told, my very favorite waterfall is always the one that I’m watching. We even took time out of our trip to Costa Rica to visit waterfalls…which were also spectacular…but that’s another story.

How you benefit from OPM

Following our guide at Victoria Falls mere inches from certain doom, it never once crossed my mind to tell him that I wanted to try this on my own so that I could learn from my own experience. Actually, every second felt etched into my brain and I was wishing that my feet could not only step on the rocks but actually hold on!

When it comes to planning for the second half of life, and possibly devastating costs of long-term care, are you learning from OPM (Other People’s Mistakes)?

Most people have had a parent, family member or friend who has experienced Alzheimer’s and/or a nursing home stay. Or they have seen families devastated when the courts got involved through guardianship or probate.

If they are smart, they realize that could happen to them, too. They learn valuable lessons from the experiences of others.

Life is too short to learn all that you need by only learning from your own mistakes. Look around. See the OPM all around you. Then act on that information and get the right help.

What’s the best way to walk across the slippery rocks inches from the drop off at Victoria Falls? With someone who has been there before.