There is this tale about a sage and his pupil who had sought him out from the big city in the secluded monastery to learn from him. After spending some time with the ancient sage, the pupil felt he wasn’t learning enough from the master. It didn’t seem like he was improving and so he sought to find out why.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” the master asked as the pupil walked into his room that faithful day. “Yes sir I do!”
The sage poured and poured, and kept pouring even after the cup was full. Soon the tea started to spill on the table. Irritated, the pupil drew the attention of the master to the tea that was beginning to waste.
“Ha ah! Here is the answer you seek my child. This cup can’t take any more tea because it is full. To take more, we have to first empty it. There is no lack of new tea, but as long as the cup is full, nothing new will come in.”
Hmmn…There is no lack of new things to learn, however, if you remain full, valuable lessons will keep spilling off and you’d never grow. Your mistakes become wastes when they could have been useful tools for making better decisions.
There is no lack of new things to learn
And what makes our cups full? Assumptions!
Assumptions make our cups full. Our opinion on what is true and what works is not always correct. But as long as we hold on to them, they will take the space that knowledge is supposed to fill.
Therefore, to learn, you must be able to distinguish between an assumption and knowledge. Then you can know what to discard and what to keep; what to pay attention to, and what to let through the leaks.
Another tale worth sharing is about a man who one day eventually got frustrated with the amount of food his wife wastes anytime she needed to fry fish.
He noticed she’d always cut off the head and the tail of the fish before she fried it. He just couldn’t understand why.
One day he summoned courage (as I assume you would need courage to challenge your wife on delicate matters such as this. LoL) and asked her why she did so. “I don’t know” she replied. “But whenever my mother fried fish, she always cut off the head and the tail. This is how we do it in our family for as long as I can remember”.
Luckily, her mother was alive but she too gave the same reply when she was asked the same question. Then they found the grandmother and asked her the same question. This time, they found the knowledge they sought.
“I never had big pans to fry big fish back in the days. The only way the fish could fit in the pot was if I cut off the head and tail. But now that I have a big pan, I fry the whole fish. But you had left for your own home so you didn’t get to see me fry it this way”
If only someone had asked the right question much earlier. If only someone had challenged the status quo. If only someone had questioned the assumption. Many fishes would have nourished the bellies of many generations rather than waste.
Ask new questions and challenge old knowledge
The morale is this, to learn you must ask questions. Don’t just accept everything you are taught. Try to know the reasons behind the theories; know the background to the knowledge; Only then will you be wise enough to apply knowledge correctly.
So two things I have said – You must learn to distinguish knowledge from assumption and allow assumptions leave so that new knowledge can come in. You must seek new knowledge by asking questions and challenging old knowledge passed down to you.
Life is really about learning. When we stop learning, we stop growing. When we stop growing, we invite decay and consequently death. You must understand that learning is deliberate. Being taught might not always be in your control, but learning is always up to you!
Cheers to a better you