Seeing Experience Through the Eyes of Henry Ford

Bill Abbate

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Life is built on experiences. Yes, I refer to them in the plural as that is what they are. While you could say life is one big experience, and be correct, it still consists of countless individual experiences. It is these smaller experiences we will discuss in this article.

Life is a constant flow of experiences, from one moment to the next, forever moving forward in time. Our experiences flow so long as we live. When we stop living, they stop.

Experience has many facets. There are positive, negative, those we build on, and those that add little or nothing to our lives. We can even capture experiences for posterity. Everything we write, every photograph we take, every video we make captures a slice of an experience.

The fascinating thing about our experiences is we – you and I – are integral to creating them. How? By what we choose to do, how we choose to think, and how we prefer to view life (our mindset).

Life experience consists primarily of our choices, in which we create the circumstances. In exceptional situations, we can be victims of circumstance; however, this is the exception and not the rule. Another way to say this is most of life is in what we choose, and we are seldom a victim of circumstance. Most victims choose to be so, but that is a subject for another time.

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” Helen Keller (1880-1968)

Two types of experiences

Experiences usually fall into one of two categories. They either:

  1. Build upon past experiences that add to life (positive).
  2. Stand-alone. Adding nothing and possibly wasting life (negative).

Another way these can be stated is they are either (1) productive or (2) useless/wasteful.

Things like education include many experiences built one upon the other. These experiences add to our life, accumulating to create something greater than any one experience alone.

Useless or wasteful experiences add nothing to previous experience. In essence, they waste time. This can include things like mindlessly watching television shows, sometimes called bubblegum for the brain. Like chewing gum, it expends energy and has no nutritional value, making it practically meaningless to building life experience.

Yes, some television is educational, but most of it is not. Most television exists to sell something to us, to entertain and numb us. Most television requires little or no thinking, adding nothing to life, and is certainly not a productive use of time.

Yet we need some downtime in our life, don’t we? When we are the productive type, it can help us slow down and empty our mind for a short time. It’s called rest and relaxation, and everyone needs some of it, so you could say some of these non-productive experiences are necessary to life at times.

Life is full of positive and negative experiences. Some positive, life-giving experiences include:

  • Falling in love
  • Finishing school
  • Marriage
  • Having a child or children
  • Homeownership
  • Career and business success
  • Ongoing learning
  • Developing new skills
  • Belonging to a wonderful church community
  • Having great friends
  • Traveling

Each of these experiences consists of countless smaller experiences accumulating to make you who you are.

Anther part of every life includes negative, life-draining experiences such as:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Health problems
  • Relationship problems and divorce
  • Job loss
  • Natural disasters
  • Injuries

These also add to life experience and help us become who we are.

What other experiences would you add to the two lists above?

Positive and negative, as well as neutral experiences, make up every life. Life is a sum of all our experiences, making us uniquely who we are as individuals.

The interesting thing about life is the experiences never stop flowing, always adding to the sum of our life. Even the worst negative experiences cannot take away or reverse life; they only add to the total.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

How can we use this knowledge?

The most important thing to recognize about experiences in life is we have a great deal of control over them by the choices we make. You can create life-building experiences practically anytime you wish. You can learn something, do something, think something that adds value to your life.

All that is required is you are conscious and mindful of these experiences. Instead of rushing through life as so many of us do today, why not slow down, perhaps even stop, and think about the experience you are having at this moment. How do you see it? Give it some thought.

Mindfully focus your attention on the present moment multiple times each day. Appreciate the experience you are in and choose what you want. Do you want to keep going in the experience or change it?

Like many others, you can continue to go through life, hurried and non-thinking, without being mindful, or you can do something different. By the way, does not being mindful mean you are mindless? I’ll let you decide that one.

“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

Final thoughts

You have primary control over your life experiences. By controlling them, you control the outcome of your life. What do you want to make of your life by using this control?

An excellent way to approach each new day is to ask yourself, “What can I do today to build on yesterday?” It will also help to get more specific and ask yourself regularly, “What can I do at this moment to continue to build on past experiences?”

I leave you with the profound words of an American Magnate on which to contemplate:

“Life is a series of experience, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.” Henry Ford (1863-1947)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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