You did it!

But did you learn from it?

Home from Overland Expo West nearly a week, I still can’t shake the feeling of overwhelm. The post-event press release came out the other day. 22,000 people attended the two-and-a-half day event in Flagstaff, Arizona, this year. The biggest attendance in the history of the event.

You get out of it what you put into it.

Someone mentioned that to me years ago when I was bitching about what I learned from DeVry versus what I’ll be paying for DeVry (until the year I turn 65). Some lessons are more expensive than others, I guess.

Everything smells like campfire.

Say you go camping with your friends. You load the truck to the headliner with everything you need to be comfortable. You roll into camp and then, as you spend an hour unpacking and setting up, you’re already dreading having to pack it all up again.

A couple days later, you’re grimy and tired and everything smells like campfire. All you want to do after several hours of driving home is take a shower and hit the couch—but first you have to unload the truck and put everything away. “What a pain in the ass.”

Experience is trying to teach you something, here.

The rookie learns “Camping is a hassle.” The next level gearhead, though, thinks about WHY the last trip was a hassle, HOW things might be changed up to make life easier, and figures out WHAT to do next time.

It’s the classic OODA loop—Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. This is apparently ingrained in fighter pilots’ training, but we all do it every day without even thinking about it. Think: driving anywhere. If you’ve ever changed lanes, you’ve been through an OODA loop. It’s that simple.

This is important.

Back to “you get out of it what you put into it”, experience by itself is a teacher, but it’s important we reflect on those experiences to make sure we fully understand why things happened the way they did—so we can come up with ways to make things better next time.

If your last camping trip was frustrating, it’s not that camping was frustrating—it’s something about that particular camping trip caused you stress. What could you do to make loading/unloading the truck and setting up/breaking camp easier? Do you need a $3,000 rooftop tent? Or would $30 worth of plastic bins and a permanent marker do you right?

Layer on second-order thinking and you’re well on your way to everything you ever wanted.

Experience is a teacher, but reflective experience is a master class.

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