A few years ago I went to work for my neighbor who had started a company out of his home. Having never worked in that particular industry, I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about completing certain tasks he gave me. When I asked him how to do something one day, his response kind of pissed me off. He simply said, “Own it!” Ummm…okay. What I didn’t realize until a few months later was that was some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Those two tiny words taught me that as an adult I need to figure things out on my own. If it becomes my instinct to go to someone every time I try something new then I’m never going to grow as a person. There are many things we do in life that require us to learn independently. What I have found is that when we are given the chance to do so, we tend to get more out of this independent learning than just an answer to our immediate question.
In the Spring of 1990, I decided to try out for the colorguard at my high school and follow in my sister’s footsteps. I remember being in the back yard at my parents’ house trying over and over again to do the most basic move – a drop spin. My sister was outside with me at the time spinning one of her rifles. I was getting very frustrated because every time I would do a drop spin my flag would roll up. After a few frustrating minutes of this I finally asked my sister what I was doing wrong. Her advice was priceless. She told me, “Just figure out what you’re doing and then don’t do it anymore!” GENIUS!! Of course at the time I was NOT her biggest fan and am sure the look on my face communicated that clearly!! I may have wanted to throw my flag at her at the moment, but by saying that it made me work harder and pay attention to exactly what I was doing. Lo and behold, I not only figured it out, but my junior and senior years I was the colorguard captain.
Moments like these have made a large impact on who I am today. I don’t tend to wait around for someone to show me how to do something but rather I start off trying to figure it out on my own. Many times I will discover something in addition to what I was trying to accomplish whether it be a shortcut in a program or a faster way of doing something, but regardless it is probably something I wouldn’t have learned had I just had someone feed me the answer.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have enough sense to know when asking questions is warranted prior to beginning a task or project. There have been many occasions that, looking back, I should have asked questions…LOTS of questions but didn’t. In most cases, those situations resulted in a ton of wasted time on my part and in some cases a lot of money as well. Many of you have heard me talk about Petey. He is my Expedition and he’s been with us since 2000, although he’s a 1997 model. We were in need of a different car at the time because my husband was unable to drive our Ford Ranger from San Antonio to Austin each day prior to us moving here because we couldn’t go over the miles on our lease. Instead, he was driving my cute little Ford Escort Station Wagon. Talk about a comfy drive for someone who is 6’2”! Anyways, while visiting my in-laws one weekend, we took a trip into San Angelo to look for a used vehicle. This is where I fell in love with Petey. We didn’t want to be taken advantage of at a car dealership (I know, imagine that!), so we had decided ahead of time how much we could afford for a monthly payment. We sat down with the sales guy and, thinking we were showing him who was boss, we said that we wanted that car for this monthly payment. If he could do that for us we would drive away with it today! I’m sure you can guess…he met our price!!! He did this by increasing the number of months that we would have to pay out the note which meant the price of the vehicle went up! We didn’t care! We got the car we wanted at the monthly price we asked for! It wasn’t until a few months later that we did the math and figured out just how screwed we were. Sure this was an expensive mistake, but it was definitely a “learning experience.” Have we made that same mistake again? Nope!…of course we haven’t bought another vehicle since then, but I’m afraid that time may be quickly approaching.
Looking back over all my experiences in life, I have learned a surplus of lessons. Sure most of them I’ve learned the hard way…the very hard way, but the point is that I learned something. Had I not been given the opportunity to discover these things in my own way I wouldn’t be the person I am now. Think about what your life would be like if you didn’t figure out how to pick yourself back up after a devastating or frustrating experience. What if you had always been given the answers and didn’t have to learn to think for yourself? Remember, there is a thin line between knowing when to give up and knowing when to try harder. To truly know which is the correct path can only come from experience.