Is it true that we learn from our experiences? (2)

It is of no use to speak in general terms about experiences; it is essential to understand what the demands of situations are that bring about significant changes in a person’s professional life. It is possible to identify them by distributing experiences into different categories.

Experiences that have a strong personal impact have at their base a struggle against adversity. These experiences force individuals to do something different than what they had been doing up to that point. They also push one to perceive oneself and situations in a way that is always different from the past, requiring one to give one’s best in that situation, which can never be identical to a previous one. It is clear, however, that it is through these adverse situations that the manager or sportsman may choose whether or not to take illegal shortcuts to satisfy their need for success and power.

Experiences with a character of exceptionality. For this reason, even an experienced person may say, “Such a situation I have never faced before.” Shooting a penalty kick at the World Cup final is a unique experience, and it is not enough to be good and to have handled this kind of stress well in the past, now you are watched by more than a billion people, you are a champion but it is not enough to score a goal. It was an experience that had never even happened to Roberto Baggio before he missed it in the final with Brazil. The most significant experiences have the trait of uniqueness not so much in relation to the content of the activity (e.g., the penalty kick is an action that belongs to the professional baggage of every soccer player) but in relation to the value they take on in a given circumstance (shooting it during the World Cup final).

Experiences that require the development of new skills to cope with new situations. Creativity and innovation are pathways increasingly practiced by leaders who must consciously serve as innovative role models to their staff. They represent real learning situations. Knowing how to grasp one’s moments of uncertainty and doubt is a good criterion for establishing that one does not know how to reason only by established practices but that a part of oneself is available in regard to the new.

Experience and awareness of one’s own sense of belonging. This last category is particularly important because it relates the situations to be faced to the experience of personal belonging. An individual is not ascribable to a single activity or group but can be defined, without thereby feeling any contradiction, through the facet of his activities as a manager and as a member of different groups. He can be a cook, a music lover, a runner, a lover of vacations taken in nature, a father, a husband, an Italian, a college graduate, a resident of a metropolis, and much more. Each of these aspects participates in forming the identity in which one recognizes oneself, and all of them together determine how one acts. Staying aware of this plurality of affiliations can be a first step toward curbing any illegal behavior. A manager or an athlete might think based on the idea that the end justifies the means that it does not matter in what way one achieves success. Well thinking that one is also a parent or citizen with responsibilities to others may slow down the establishment of this attitude.

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