What do you know for sure that just ain’t so?

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Mark Twain said:

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

Which brings up an interesting question…

Are the rules you live by, your limits and boundaries real or just assumed?

My daughter’s pre-school parent-teacher conference was going just swimmingly, until we got to the section on logic. Turns out, Jesse had been shown a bunch of pictures and asked to reveal what was wrong with each. She did great, save one glaring error.

Swimming in snow.

One of the pictures she was shown was an illustration of people swimming outside…in a snow-storm. The teacher was concerned because my daughter couldn’t find anything wrong with the picture. Clearly, people don’t swim outside when it’s Winter.

It took me a beat to figure out what was going on.

And, when I did, I realized it was the teacher whose mind was having the problem, not my daughter. You see, Jesse’s been on skis since she was 3 years old (she’s 6 now).

Every year, our entire extended family would venture out to Park City, Utah for a week of skiing and snowboarding. And, at the end of each day, we’d all jump into our bathing suits and run, screaming and shivering, into the giant outdoor, super-heated swimming pool and whirlpools. Having snow collect on our heads while we basked in the pool was not an unusual experience.

In fact, swimming in snowstorms was a tradition.

When I explained this to Jesse’s teacher, she realized that, to my daughter, there was nothing wrong with the drawing. Swimming in a snow-storm was not only possible, it was how she’d done the bulk of her swimming for her entire life. And, that made me wonder…

How many of the assumptions that limit my life are real?

And, how many are just constraints I’ve assumed into existence through my lack of personal exposure to possibilities beyond the norm?

It made me want to go out and kick the tires of my daily life. To experience more. Do more. Live more. To test the strength of the walls I’ve erected, the ones that have guided what I do and don’t do on a daily basis.

Are they real…or have I just been swimming in snow?

What I’ve found is that, the more I test, the more those walls tend to crumble. And, when they come down, the boundaries of what’s possible, especially in my professional life, have tended to expand. Often rapidly.

So, my question is…

What do you know for sure that just ain’t so?

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11 responses

11 responses to “What do you know for sure that just ain’t so?”

  1. CatherineL says:

    Great post. It’s a shame that many teachers seem to want to encourage our kids to use the wrong side of their brain all the time.

  2. Akemi says:

    I like this post. So true.
    It’s ironical how so many teachers are small-minded fearful people.
    Another example in the same line of your point: You know how large dogs stay put in a yard with rather low fence? They can easily jump out, but they don’t attempt to do that. Because when they were puppies, they tried and tried, and they couldn’t, so they believe they can’t.


  3. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ CatherineL – Funny thing is, I actually really loved her teacher, it wasn’t a conscious choice, she wasn’t even aware that her perspective had been limited by her own experience.

    @ Akemi – Great story, same point, it’s amazing how ready we are to settle into our assumptions for years or decades without ever testing if they are still true.

    @ End of Motherhood – Wow! Lucky you!

  4. What other people are thinking. Seriously, sometimes I have been absolutely baffled by something my s/o has said.

  5. Christopher says:

    Great story. One of the reasons that I became a teacher was to help students become better learners. Learners who succeed by developing their individual strengths and talents by widening their experiences and perspectives on life.

    It is teachers like the one you describe who do not see that every person on this planet has a valid viewpoint, from their personal perspective.

    We may not agree nor understand that viewpoint, but just as ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ meaning and perspective are to be found in the unique experiences of the individual.

    Criticism, even constructive criticism, can be damaging to the individual and help to create people who value themselves less and who are less likely to share of their talent and vision.

    We need to embrace the value of those unique and differing viewpoints and learn from them, even as we share our own. In this way we will ourselves grow in our own experiences and perspectives, while, at the same time, positively affecting those whose views are different from our own.

  6. esther says:

    what a sweet story. hopefully jesse’s teacher is open to learning from her students!

  7. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Hayden – Yes, my friend! I think we’re all in the same boat there!

    @ Christopher – great addition on the notion of embracing and cultivating uniqueness, sounds like you must be a great teacher!

    @ Esther – Her teacher was actually quite lovely and very caring and, i think, this brief experience actually did open her up a bit.

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  10. peter hobday says:

    All the teacher had to do was ask your daughter about it. That is what a good teacher would do.

    Maybe people just don’t ask as many questions as they give anwers. A good question is more likely to show intellingence than an answer, which is often simply the result of good memory.