A little piece of human learning

Disclaimer : me talking about car is quite unusual, but this is a real story and I felt it was inspiring.

This week I had to use a car lended by my garage. The woman who gave me the keys said “the fuel gauge is fanciful, what ever it says, you’d better put few gasoline liters (or gallion) to make sure you don’t have unexpected breakdown”.

I said “yes, sure”, took the keys, thinking about my long day, drove at work, the gauge indicated full tank. I made my morning in the office, and drove, in a rush, to a lunch, 35 km far away. After 6 kilometers on the highway: a noise, a strident alarm-biiiip, fuel gauge red. Shit. Body panic. I was missing an opportunity to be on time. I was balancing. Remembering the words of the lady : fanciful gauge. Was it ringing too early or too late ? Despite my willingness to be on time, I decided to drive to the first station, outside the highway, to make sure I’d reach my final destination. I wasted 15 minutes, got 20 liters, and felt okay. I came back on the highway and drove again towards my lunch.

At the first bump on the road: a noise, strident alarm-biiip, fuel gauge red. Shit. I thought “again…”. I panicked during one our two seconds and realized that the machine could not fool me twice. This time, I knew. I knew that the alarm signal was fake. I knew the tank was half full, at least.

Four kilometers later. A bump. A noise, strident alarm-biiip, fuel gauge red. Again. This time, not a single reaction from my body. Not a nano-second dedicated to think that something could go wrong. The alarm signal completely lost its power of alarm. And in the end, I will never know if the tank was empty or full.

This story is not only about a woman driving, taking risk to be late at lunch (I actually was on time). This is about our ability to improve our interpretation of the world.

What happened? I was given a framework, with some hints that it was erratic, but I had to make my own experience that it was fantasist, and after experiencing, I got it. I went once into the process of wrong interpretation, found a solution, then, experienced a second time, felt more confident (but still had some alarming reflex) and finally adapted to the fanciful behavior and ignored it. I integrated that the signal was wrong, untrusted, irrelevant.

What can I learn from that “alarm, biiip, panic, noise, and after few cycles, peace” story.

First. I was fooled twice. I had to go twice through this experience to finally feel comfortable. Provided the garage lady’s warning, twice, seems a lot. But this is how I am. Each of us learn his or her own way. The important thing is that I learnt.

Second. How does that apply to the signal we receive every day in our life ? I’d be happy to reduce that amount of bad noise reaching me via media, people, organization. I’d be happy to kill those alarming-but-not-always-backed signals. You know. The defeatism vision from politics, the pessimism of some people, the FUD* in the media, the panic wave in the office. How could I make this shut up ? I think that calm observation and education are key here.

My final take, is that I should spend more time understanding over-negative-reactions to finally dompt them and reduce the wrong noisy signals in my life.

*FUD is Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, a well known method to avoid rational and reasonnable conversation.