Valderrama: Learning the hard way

Maria Gemima C. Valderrama
Maria Gemima C. Valderrama

We learn best when we learn the hard way.  This is true.

Our challenging experiences make us reflect and learn. Sometimes, we go through a lot of pain before we realize the foolish decisions, abrasive behavior, or disturbing actions we’ve made.

Tough experiences often leave a lasting impression on us.

We learn from them. When we finish an almost incredible task but manage to survive it even then, we feel an indescribable triumph.

Barack Obama once said, "Have you ever noticed that if there's a hard way and an easy way, you choose the hard way every time? Why do you think that is?”

It is not true that we always wanted the easy way. This is only for lazy, aimless, or unconcerned individuals.  We do not like to be poker-faced all the time. There’s no thrill in all the easy ways.

When we choose the hard way, we prepare ourselves for what is more. We become a visionary, planning the future with wisdom.

Obama’s life is an example. He prepared himself the hard way and recalled he was raised as an Indonesian, Hawaiian, black and white child. He benefited from the cultures that all fed him and later became the 44th President of the United States.

He prepared himself and chose and learned the hard way.

Not everyone responds to challenges the same way, but when we navigate through difficult situations, we learn to think critically, analyze problems, and consider different solutions.

Learning through challenging experiences builds resilience. We develop a mindset that allows us to bounce back from setbacks, cultivating principles and an unwavering mind.

In my journalism classes years back, I established discipline in writing by making students submit an article in an hour.

My class ends at 9 in the evening, and I leave not waiting for late submissions.

Some would chase me from the fifth floor of the Finster building, where most of my classes were, using the elevator or stairs. Some would giggle and laugh. It was the adrenaline rush that would push them to do harder.

For some who could not complete the story in an hour, I could see expressions I could read as “I’ve had it up to here with your one-hour writing session!”  There was frustration and anger.

I heard some students describe the writing workshops as the Hunger Games – you survive the one-hour writing or chase the teacher down the stairs. For a time, I thought they were fuming over the chase.

But years later, I met some of the students again, and they shared the impact the one-hour writing sessions brought in their lives.

They loved it. They learned the hard way. They have applied what they have learned.

Some have become lawyers, practicing journalists, online writers, government workers, office personnel, and teachers. It was Hunger Games after all – we cannot accomplish something without personal sacrifice.

Learning the hard way is when we learn best. I learned the hard way, too. That’s why I became a teacher. I became who I am today.


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