Teachers open the door but you must walk through it yourself. – Chinese Proverb
What does that mean?
The world is a big place. There are many things to do, and many places to visit. But what if you don’t know about it, or have fears or worries about what you do know?
This is where a teacher can be helpful. They have been outside your limited world. They have seen, done, and learned things you don’t know or understand.
The teacher can help you understand, and help you calm your fears. They can point out where and when to be cautious, and when and where to let go and have fun.
But after the teacher has taught you, it’s up to you to actually go out and do it. The teacher has opened the door, but only you can take the step through the door.
Why is taking the walk through the door important?
To me, learning from a teacher is fine, but it has the same limitations as looking out a window. Yes you can see much, but you can’t really experience it. That may be a good thing when watching tigers or sharks, windows are quite useful in those circumstances.
But for most things, book learning and viewing through a window are just a glimpse of what is there for you to experience. A smell instead of a taste. A bit of mist, instead of the full sea spray. You can read about sailing, but nothing is the same as standing on a heaving deck while hoisting a sail.
And that walk through the door opens up so many other experiences. The recollections of your experience will come back the next time you read a book about the sea (think Melville or Hemingway). Even TV shows have a greater impact when you have experienced some of the subject matter, instead of just reading about or listening to a teacher.
Just remember, we don’t have to walk through the door. We may find out something we thought would be fun really isn’t all that interesting. It’s fine to decline to cross the threshold. But we must also realize that it is our choice and our responsibility to choose to walk, or to not walk thru the door.
Where can I apply this in my life?
How you apply this quote to your life very much depends on how much you get outside. Not outside as in the great outdoors, but how often you leave your comfort zone. How often to you try something new? How often do you find out about new things and give them a try?
If you do it a lot, you are probably already living the quote fairly well, at least in some parts of your life. What about the other parts of your life? Do you try new food? Do you travel? Do you try new games? Do you go new places in town? Do you make new friends? There are many different doors in our lives, right?
By nature, humans are uneven. We excel at some things, but not at others. There are probably areas where you don’t even wait for a teacher to open the door, but instead, kick it open yourself and charge through. There are probably a few other places where you are much more likely to just look out the window.
For me, climbing things has always been a kick-the-door-open kind of thing. Whether it was trees, rocks, cliff faces (small ones), I rarely hesitate. On the other hand, I am very particular about food. Some people love to try new things, whereas I rarely do. That’s just me being uneven. How about you?
What doors could you walk through more often? What could you do, but choose not to? Is there a reason, or have you just made a habit of not doing? Do you want to change any of these habits? What would you like to do, rather than just learn or hear or smell?
The choice is yours, and you can always choose to reverse yourself if you don’t like what is happening. Part of being educated is noticing what happened and taking a moment to consider (or reconsider) what you did, and if you are willing to do it again. Sometimes once is enough, right?
A new week awaits, what are you interested in doing? What doors will you open and walk through?