Instructions for Life

I watched an online video for visual instructions on how to install quick-hitch attachments on my tractor. I learned some about installing them, but I learned more about what usually happens in life when people want guidance and help with challenges.

The two men in the video were standing at the rear of the tractor and discussing how to install the attachments. The parts and the cardboard box they came in were laid out on the ground. The men discussed how the parts likely fit and the ways the roll pins would resolve part of the installation challenge. They discussed options, each sharing information that seemed to be a mix of previous experience and speculation. As I listened and watched, my attention moved from the tractor and the adapters at the end of the lift arms to the paper flapping in the breeze. As they considered and speculated, the paper flapped as one end was weighted down with one of the parts. As they experimented and discussed, the instructions flapped for attention.

While it might be humorous to make a gender joke about men not reading instructions, the joke is actually on all of us. If we breathe, we are guilty of tackling challenges in life – both big and small, critical and inconsequential – without referring to knowledge, wisdom, instructions and guidance that are readily available, and I don’t mean on the internet.

Every step of the way on our life’s journey, we have been able to pick up knowledge, wisdom, instructions and guidance, either from our mistakes and successes, or from those we encounter. We try, and we learn; we miss our goal, and we learn; we watch others, and we learn; we ask others, and we learn; we listen to others, and we learn. We have knowledge, wisdom, instructions and guidance in us that we have picked up along the way, and we have access to people who can help.

While online videos can be useful when trying to learn something, I think we are missing much by not calling someone or asking a family member or neighbor to show us how to do something.  There is much more to be gained than just instructions when we get learn from a living, breathing teacher, guide or mentor.

The previous paragraph may sound like a contradiction to my original premise.  After all, the men were seeking guidance from each other, and that can be a good thing, for the conversation if not anything else. What they missed amidst the conversation was the information they sought. And that’s my point: we have what we need to face challenges; to find joy, happiness, faith, courage and success; and, to seek solutions by asking the right questions, because of the life we’ve lived, not despite it.  Don’t ignore what you have while searching for what you think you need.

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