If you find a painted wall somewhere around your home or office and put up a sign that says “Wet Paint,” without realizing it, you’ve created a perfect laboratory for observing human behavior. If you simply stand by and watch, you will see human nature and the learning process take several forms.
Some people will come by, see your “Wet Paint” sign, glance quickly at the wall, and go on about their way. These people are generally well-adjusted, reasonably trusting, and non-confrontational. If you remove the “Wet Paint” sign, these people will often make it a point to avoid touching the wall for several more days and even go so far as to alert others that the paint on that wall may still be a bit wet, so they should be cautious.
If you continue your observations long enough, you will observe another kind of human behavior as it relates to your “Wet Paint” sign. A person will come by, clearly see your “Wet Paint” sign, and immediately touch the wall to see if the paint is actually wet. These are people who would not have touched the wall if you had not put your “Wet Paint” sign there in the first place. Even though this person has damaged your paint job and gotten wet paint on themselves, if they come by later, whether your “Wet Paint” sign is there or not, they will actually touch the wall again and continue this same behavior for hours or even days until they learn, through their own experience, that the paint is no longer wet.
All of us have the potential of learning very valuable lessons each day. Some people can learn by reading or hearing the words of others; other people need to observe the outcomes of other individuals; while many people have to learn the lesson the hard way every time or, worse yet, never learn the lesson at all. While we may think these learning styles are innate, we actually have more control over how we learn and what we learn than we might realize.
In our ever more complex, fast-paced world, it becomes more critical than ever that we develop the ability to learn lessons from others who have gone before us. You don’t want to be among the sorry souls that learn, the hard way, that the surgeon general’s warning about cigarettes or the pleas of financial planners to plan for your retirement years were valid.
With all of the multimedia opportunities around us and constant access to the Internet, we should be able to learn from others’ words or at least their actions without having to get a handful of wet paint every time.
As you go through your day today, commit to learning the most lessons you can in the easiest manner possible.
Today’s the day!
Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082; by e-mail at Jim@JimStovall.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor.