Learning From on the Job Experience: Sometimes, the Bear Gets You

Nov 4, 2011

Timothy Treadwell loved grizzly bears so much he wanted to marry them. Well, not marry them so much as be near them all the time.

Timothy spent 13 summers by salmon streams filming himself fondling bears while speaking softly to the camera. The gist was that he had a special relationship with the animals. Only he, Timothy went on, knows how to play with grizzly cubs. Only he understands bears, and they understand him.

Legitimate bear scientists told him not to touch bears, and Park Rangers told him not to go near them. Timothy knew better. Timothy was different.

And then a bear ate him.

We learn from the experience of others

Is there a lesson here? A business lesson we can all learn from?

The lesson is this: We don’t have to learn by doing. Once the first cave man picked up a rattlesnake and died a short time later, humans all over the veld knew about it. “Don’t pick up the rattlesnakes,” they’d laugh, “or you’ll end up like Bill over there.”

Unlike Timothy Treadwell, most of us don’t have to be mauled in order to know that a grizzly bear is not a toy. And how did we know?

We learn from the experience of others. It only took the first guy and everyone else knew.

All common sense, I know, but why did Timothy become breakfast?

Learn from others

It’s because his ignorance was shrouded by his success. He wasn’t eaten the first time he took a kissy-face picture with a bear, and that’s what ruined him. When we try something and it works we relax, assuming it’s all figured out.

It’s usually worth the time it takes to do some research whether you’re hiring a speaker for your annual event or starting training program. Don’t look at just the benefits, learn the detriments too.

Bookstores are overflowing with 2,000 years of wisdom. Whatever you can think of to do, someone else has already tried it. Read their story and save yourself some time.

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