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Between the old and young – who can teach us?

Life, as we know, is made up of three simple elements — yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Lessons from life too, more or less, can be divided so. A couple of days ago, I attended a talk by an individual, who is a few decades older than me. The highlights of the session are fresh in my mind — I took notes and asked a bunch of questions. In short, I enjoyed the time and decided to label it as a learning exercise. Note to self: Make it a habit to attend more such sessions. As my opening lines of the column would suggest, we touched upon the changes over a period of time, which included regrets, accomplishments, learnings, confessions, aspirations, et al. As listeners, we were told to make our mistakes — as many and as many times — Don’t be afraid to fall or fail. At the same time, do gain from the experience of those, who’ve been there, done that. The trick is to learn how to strike a balance.

I was happy in my space, until the next day when someone (who was not in the audience) questioned me on what would have I possibly learnt from the old is gold era — after all, my generation is different and progressive. Further, I was told that I have means that they didn’t have and in fact, I will be able to teach the seniors a thing or two. Yes, and yes, I nodded in agreement with the points made.

As expected, it got me thinking, maybe in the wrong direction. I know a lot, but do I know it all? Is there truly nothing that I can learn (or unlearn) from the generation, which lived in different times — say of the floppy disks vs. the cloud drives? Is it just about technology? Or is it about an attitude shift too —say of the saving income vs. the spending on travelling ideology? Should it hurt my ego to seek from those, who don’t have age on their side?

The self-examination exercise led me to attend another session and this time I was a decade older to the speaker. Interestingly, this speaker too had the same advice, when it came to mistakes and experiences. Goes without saying, I scribbled a similar note to self. Did I feel that the future generation will win the world over and I’d be left behind? Did it hurt my ego to be a student? No and no.

What’s my point and learning as I type this? I choose it all.

One, my mistakes. Two, experiences of others; including the old and the young. Does it make me feel insecure or incompetent? No. In fact, it prepares me on many fronts. For, whilst there’s nothing better in life than on-the-job training, I feel a ready reckoner from predecessors and successors can come in handy, every now and then.

I don’t know what you’ll choose in similar situations in life, at work or, but I can only hope that you remember that a huge amount of knowledge is passed in both directions when the old and young sit together.


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