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Learning From Experience

A great way to learn: experience - a short interview with seminar presenter Jean Moroney.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Movie clip       

Male:               There’s such a thing as dullness of heart. Acceptance and letting go. Sooner or later, we all give up.

Female:           Maybe you all do. It’s my idea of the original sin.

Male:               What is?

Female:           Giving up!


Dr. Kenner:      That’s from The Miracle Worker. I agree. You never want to give up on your top values, so thins that move you, that drive you forward in life, that make you want to get out of bed. You don’t want to just throw in the towel and throw away your goals and just settle in a boring job or boring relationship or not have a hobby you enjoy. Just float along in life. You might as well throw away – you are throwing away your life. With me to help you not throw away your life and to learn how not to give up but to learn from experience is a thinking expert, Jean Moroney. She has master’s degrees in electrical engineering and psychology and she’s completed a graduate program in the Philosophy of Objectivism at the Ayn Rand Institute. So you put that all together – engineering, psychology and a rational philosophy – with Jean’s wonderful passion and all of her knowledge about thinking and she’s here to help you solve your problems. That’s your topic, learning from experience. So some people say, Jean, some people are cynical and you just say you can’t learn from experience. Just give up. What are your thoughts on that?


Jean:               Well, I guess I have to agree with [inaudible 00:01:30] in the Miracle Worker that giving up is a terrible idea and the problem is, people don’t always know how to learn from experience. It’s not always obvious what to do differently. I think the number one thing you want to do to learn from experience is deliberately give yourself the learning experience. Within 24 hours of what it is you want to learn from, stop and think about what went right and what went wrong.


Dr. Kenner:      Let’s say I’m dating and I’d say in the past two months I’ve dated five guys and it’s just not working out. It must be me. I don’t know what the problem is, but they don’t call me back and I just give up. What’s the use?


Jean:               The perfect example, because this is an example of what I call flailing. You’re doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.


Dr. Kenner:      I’m dating different guys.


Jean:               And getting the same result.


Dr. Kenner:      They don’t call me back.


Jean:               Right. The thing to do here is to give yourself a chance to see what exactly is going on. I actually recommend that you, within 24 hours of your date, sit down with a piece of paper and pencil and answer these questions: what went well? What do I think contributed to that? Certainly some things probably went well in the date.


Dr. Kenner:      Yeah, we laughed a lot and I thought that they really liked me. I thought that people have a sense of humor, I have a good sense of humor, and I thought everything was going well. We talked, didn’t just sit there like bumps on a log.


Jean:               That sounds like in your example there is stuff that went well. So also ask yourself the question, “What didn’t go well? And what do I think contributed to that?”


Dr. Kenner:      I think the same thing. I think I talked too much about myself and I don’t know how to listen to the other person. And they probably don’t feel comfortable with me because I am a very strong personality. I have a strong personality and I laugh a lot. Maybe it’s too overpowering for them.


Jean:               This is very interesting because these two questions that I suggested – what went well and what contributed? What didn’t go well and what contributed? – are easy to answer. You always have, particularly if it’s soon after, which is why I say 24 hours, you always have thoughts on that and it’s fairly easy to get them out of your subconscious. That’s one part of the process, to get out your thinking on that, on paper. There’s a third question I think that is worth asking. “What would I do differently another time?”


Dr. Kenner:      I think taking it from what I just said, I think I can still have my wonderful, delightful sense of humor. I can still come on strong because I’m not a weak person. I don’t want to sell myself as a meek, withering violet when I’m not that way, and so I think that next time I will just learn to listen, to share the airtime more and to ask them to talk more about their life. Maybe ask more questions.


Jean:               So what we get from just asking these three questions is, you get your first cut at, “What do you think needs to be different to make it better next time?” And I can tell you that just by taking, say, 10 minutes to do this in writing –


Dr. Kenner:      Within 24 hours.


Jean:               Within 24 hours, because you won’t remember after 24 hours. Too many things will intervene. This will kind of get really into focus for you so that you’re more likely to remember to give the other person a chance to talk or listen better the next time you have a date. If you really want to get the most out of these review, you need to take one more step. And that is, after you’ve done this writing, you’ve done say 10 minutes of writing out what you thought about all this.


Dr. Kenner:      What went well, what didn’t go well and what should I do differently next time? Yes.


Jean:               Go back and reread what you wrote with a fishy eye. Now, by a fishy eye, I mean a critical eye. When you’re first answering the question, you just give the answers that seem natural. But when you go back and reread, this is part of critical thinking. If you don’t just take your off the top of your head answers for things, you go back and think, “Is that literally true?” or “Is there another way to look at that,” what am I assuming here? So for example, we laughed a lot. In your writing you said we laughed a lot. Maybe when you went back and reread that you said, “Gee. Laughed a lot. I laughed at everything he said, but he didn’t laugh as much as I did.” It came out in certain words when you first expressed it, but when you go back and look at it with a critical eye, you say, “It’s a little different from that.” Maybe there’s something you can learn from, “Gee, I was doing all the laughing and he wasn’t. Maybe my laugh was a little bit nervous and maybe I need some way to be less nervous so that I’m not laughing at everything. I mean, I’m just making this up.


Dr. Kenner:      I’m making up the example too, because I’m happily married!


Jean:               Exactly. You don’t know what you’re going to find when you start this process, and particularly the testing assumptions process when you look at it with a fishy eye. I think it’s very helpful to add that second step, because in effect, by saying what you thought off the top of your head, you give yourself a second chance to say, “Well, do I have anything that contradicts that?” That’s going to be the way you can get, in effect, a deeper layer of understanding of what went right and what went wrong, by questioning what your off the top of your head answers were.


Dr. Kenner:      And I’m thinking I might have gone back and maybe something very positive came out of it. Maybe it wasn’t that I had a nervous laugh but maybe it was because I knew within the first few minutes of talking with the person that I was not interested in them. And I had five dates over two months, but I wasn’t interested in any of them and somehow I might have sent those vibes to them. Just subtle cues to them, and that’s why they didn’t call me back. Because I might have been a stronger person and was actually rejecting them, rather than them rejecting me and me throwing in the towel.


Jean:               And that comes under the heading of testing assumptions also. Should these dates have led to follow-up dates, and maybe you were too focused on, “Gee, I want to have follow-up dates,” as opposed to, “Do I want to have follow-up dates with these particular people?”


Dr. Kenner:      I’m talking with Jean Mononey. You’re a fabulous expert on thinking skill and you have a website, And I went to your website, spent a half hour on it last night. You give thinking tips and talk about what else you have on your website?


Jean:               Well, I have book recommendations. Some of which I got the recommendations for books from you, Ellen, and then wrote up reviews for them. And I have information on how to sign up for my free email newsletter. That’s at And let’s see, what else? Information on my course, Thinking Tactics, and on some preview courses I run for them.


Dr. Kenner:      You have tons of information, so just go to the website, Thank you so much for joining us today Jean.


Jean:               Thanks for having me Ellen.