If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past.


If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past. – Spinoza

Does he look like he wants to get the same thing today as last time, or does he look like he's trying to focus on what to do differently this time?

Does he look like he wants to get the same thing today as last time, or does he look like he’s trying to focus on what to do differently this time?

What does that mean?
There are plenty of ways to look at this quote, but at the heart of it is a simple thought. Learn from experiences. We can learn from our own experiences, and by studying the past, from the experiences of others as well.

After reading about the terrible troubles Napoleon had in a war against Russia in winter, you’d think anyone with any smarts would avoid being bogged down in a war in Russia when it’s winter out. But about 130 years later, the exact same mistake was made again.

By examining what happened in the past, we can get an idea of what has worked before and adapt it to our present situation. We can also see what didn’t work in the past, and try to avoid it, or at least change it to be less of a difficulty this time around.

It really is that simple. Learn from your experiences, or those of others. It might not be able to get you the desired result, but you can certainly get something else, rather than the same thing. Again. And again.

Why is learning from our experiences important?  
Consider what would happen if you didn’t learn from your experiences. What if you nearly drowned every time you went in a pool? How many more times will you go in the pool before you learn that it’s not the best thing for you to be doing?

Consider what would happen if you wanted to invent a better light bulb. Would you start from scratch, or would you look at all the different ways Edison and everyone since then tried? You might learn a lot from what worked and from what didn’t work, right?

We all have experiences. You have them, I have them, people in the past have had them. What have you learned from your experiences? What have you learned from the experiences of others? What have you learned from the experiences of people from a long time ago?

Life is going to keep on coming at you. The question is will you keep doing the same thing and expect a different, or will you learn from each experience? It will make a difference on how your life goes, right?

Where can I apply this in my life?
That’s an interesting question. Where in your life could you stand to learn from your experiences? Where in your life would you want a different result than you had last week, last month, or last year? For me, that’s just about everywhere in my life.

Yes, there are things which are doing well. But there is always room for improvement. I like to find what works, and then improve it a little more. Why else would I put a custom suspension under a station wagon, and put thousands of dollars into the engine?

Yes, the car worked. So I wanted to make it work better. Next up for the wagon is to make it quieter by sound-proofing the doors. I did the passenger side already, and I learned a lot from that. I used templates to capture shapes and sizes of panels I’ll have to fabricate for the drivers side.

You may want to learn from your last review at work. What did you do well? What can you learn from those experiences? What did you struggle to get done? What can you learn from those experiences? Is there someone you can use as a role model, or who might be willing to mentor you? What can you learn from their experiences?

If you’re tackling a new task or skill, you probably started by checking online or in the library. You wanted to know what others did, and how you can make it work for you. You wanted to learn from their experiences and their knowledge. In the past you didn’t know, and now you know a little. Your present is different than your past. Congratulations!

If you can’t see the pattern, it is my belief that you can use this in any part of your life where you want to see an improvement. For those with little ambition or who are largely complacent, this quote might not sound all that impressive. For those with a hunger to learn or improve, you might think differently.

Whether it’s from Ancient times, or just yesterday, what has happened is now history. History might not repeat itself, but there are echoes. Are you willing to study the past? Are you listening for the echos, and will you act?

From: Twitter, @OprahsQuotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/baruchspin383999.html
Photo by Bryan Rosengrant

 

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About philosiblog

I am a thinker, who is spending some time examining those short twitter quotes in greater detail on my blog.
This entry was posted in accomplishment, education, habits, repetition, time, understanding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past.

  1. Teepee12 says:

    Unfortunately, most people not only don’t study the past, they don’t remember anything that happened the day before yesterday, much less 1000 years ago. But … I still love history. Because it’s the only thing that gives the present any meaning.

    • philosiblog says:

      Context means a lot. History provides it. It also helps determine trajectory. Today is a single point. Couple it with last week, and you have an idea where you are headed as a person.

      And, as an engineer, I dislike solving problems that have already been solved, unless I’m trying to do it in a different way. Besides, sometimes you can get a hint from the past. Some of those ancient devices are incredibly efficient, but cumbersome in the era of easy and cheap power.

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