Learner’s Need Encouragement, Not Comparisons

There is a specific type of person who always has to have the last word. If you’ve done something, they claim to have done it bigger and better. And if they haven’t, they have a friend who has.

When I was in college my friends and I knew a guy for whom this was his defining character trait. I’ve forgotten his real name, but we just called him “Dude, my buddy” because he would start every sentence with that line. If someone was eating a hot dog, he’d show up and say something like, “Dude, my buddy can eat 50 hot dogs in one sitting!” If you challenged him, or made a greater claim, he would make an even wilder claim so that his was the “winner.” None of his wild claims were ever verified.

One day, my roommate got tired of putting up with him and said, “Dude, my buddy can fly. Not in a plane, he can just fly!” The other guy saw we were onto him, and it was game over.

The reason I’ve taken you on this trip down memory lane is that as people learn some bushcraft or survival skills, there is the temptation to compare what’s being done with media figures or others who have done more. But everyone is on their own journey with their own trajectory, and not everyone is headed in the same direction. As such, stories that reinforce the fact that someone is a beginner and has a long way to go help neither their skill or confidence. Since they add nothing constructive, avoid them.

For example, if someone is making a fire with a hand drill, they could probably do without hearing a story about the guy on tv who does it faster. Or if someone is learning to grow some food they probably don’t need to be told about the long, lost relative who grew all their own food during the 1930’s. When my son was learning to ride his bike, spouting out facts about Lance Armstrong’s accomplishments and how successful he was wouldn’t have accomplished anything positive.

So don’t be like that guy. If your story about what your friend or the guy on youtube did adds nothing, keep it to yourself. If you want to join the conversation, share your personal experience if you think it would be helpful. But remember to relate to the learner where they are and not try to bring them to where you are. Respect their journey.


Educational Philosophy

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