On Wednesday night, I saw my Mussar* teacher, Alan Morinis, give a talk. He was amazing as always. He said something that really hit me – Learning is not transformational. Experience is transformational. His latest book explores the 48 ways of internalizing Jewish Values. What strikes me is that one way is book learning, and the other 47 are behaviors, like serving a master, carrying the burden of another, and Joy. Alan argues that we need to book learning to know what our predecessors discovered, but it not until we put it into practice that it really counts.
I am reminded of feedback I used to get after giving a sales training. I would share the benefits and features of the products, objection handling etc. Sales people would say that is ok, but it doesn’t really tell me how to act and what to say when I’m in front of the decision maker. Training needs to incorporate the real life, and should provide models on how to act.
By analogy, it doesn’t help to have the ten commandments memorized when we’ve made a terrible mistake. “How am I supposed to tell the truth when I’ve messed up so badly?” We need to know how to act! Mussar teaches us that often we are untruthful because of fear, and the antidote to fear if Faith. It can be Faith in something greater, or faith in ourselves that we will be able to handle and manage whatever situation comes up. Often, the fear magnified the mistake into something far bigger than it really is.
That act of coming clean, the experience of coming clean, is transformational. However it comes out, we will be changed. Similarly, a training that only gives book knowledge leaves the hard work, of making it happen, to the student.
What is the best training you have every experienced? Is it even fair to put a training in the same essay as spiritual transformation?