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In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy.
~ J. Paul Getty

Perhaps you are more familiar with the colloquial saying, “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten” than this wise word from John Paul Getty. We often value efficiency over efficacy when assessing the routines of ordinary life. When faced with a recurring problem we draw on ingrained solutions. Habit is nothing more than applying one’s past approaches to resolving similar presenting problems. Or more simply put, doing what you always do without giving it a lot of thought. It is helpful when taking a shower or cracking an egg providing you did these things correctly in the first place. If one continually gets the same bad outcome from a regular action the only real option is to change things up. And that is not always an easy thing to do.

Somewhere deep within us is an expert that resists new methods. We are comfortable with how we do things and find security in our beliefs. For years I pounded nails by placing them between my thumb and index finger and endured the occasional injury; then someone told me to reverse my hand and hold it between the fleshy sides of my index and middle fingers. Striking incorrectly still stings a bit, as I am inclined to do; but I have not suffered a single bloodied thumbnail since.

In times like these our experience could indeed be our worst enemy. Drawing on what has worked in the past is difficult when no past exists from which to draw. An ever evolving pandemic requires that we defer to experts adapting to rapid changes and to acknowledge our limited view may not afford us answers on our own. A lot of life is that way. Experience is not evidence and opinion is not fact. Being uncomfortably informed is better than being comfortably ignorant. It takes courage to be dissatisfied with the present reality and to remain open to a better way. It takes wisdom to admit that such openness may be needed.


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