It can be tough to learn from experience. Experience may frighten us, weaken us or make us self-doubt, but it may also make us stronger. What all experiences have in common is that they shape who we are.
I believe that most experiences provide an opportunity for personal development, but in order to take advantage of our experiences, we need to think about how they can help us learn. Here is an example I made up:
“A man experiences difficulties at work. He begins to think that he is the problem. His co-workers send out messages that he is “a pain in the ass”. He believes them and starts to blame himself. He sees no escape, so he quits his job.”
How could this experience facilitate learning? Instead of quitting his job, he could have thought: “What causes the difficulties, and how can I/we change or improve the situation?“. Perhaps, he made the right decision to quit his job. Perhaps, he thought it was easier to let go. My point is that we too often miss opportunities for learning, simply because we forget to reflect:
“Learning from experience is one of the most fundamental and natural means of learning available to everyone … All it requires is the opportunity to reflect and think, either alone or in the company of other people.”
According to experiential learning theory, we learn through a learning cycle. Our experience serves a basis for reflection. From reflections, we develop ideas about the world. We then test the ideas to see if they are true, and finally we have a new experience. The learning cycle does not necessarily begin with experience. For example, we may have an idea that we want to test, and so on:
“Thinking … is the intentional endeavour to discover specific connections between something which we do and the consequences which result, so that the two become continuous.” (Dewey, 1916).
We need to reflect on our experiences to encourage lifelong learning and personal development – experience itself is not enough:
“When we undergo an experience, this does not always lead to new insights and learning. For example, if the experience only serves to confirm some already held beliefs it will be interpreted as supporting the existing cognitive status quo (see Piaget’s cognitive theory), and little attention will be paid to it. If we do not pay attention to it the opportunity for new learning will not happen”.
There is no doubt that everyone wants to succeed in life. The problem, of course, is how. While there are different approaches to answer this question, here I’d like to emphasize one principle:
As much as possible, you should avoid learning things yourself the hard way.
There are at least three reasons for that:
- It takes a lot of time. Learning things yourself the hard way often means months or years of unfruitful efforts. That’s a large price to pay. Isn’t it better if you can use that time in a more fruitful way?
- It’s mentally draining. Failure is a good teacher, but it can also make you feel miserable.
- It consumes your resources. Unfruitful efforts may take not only your time but also your other resources, like money.
It doesn’t mean avoiding failure at all costs, though. Doing that will only make you too cautious to take action. Instead, what I mean is that you should minimize the chance of failure while continuing to take risks.
To do that, I believe it’s essential that you learn from the experience of others. Many people don’t take it seriously enough for two reasons:
- They think they already know what it takes to succeed. Therefore, they don’t think it’s necessary to learn from others, or they do it only half-heartedly. That’s dangerous; it could take years of unfruitful efforts before they realize their mistake.
- Learning from others takes time. For example, you might need to invest hours into reading a book (more on this later). But that’s time worth investing. It can save you from a lot of wasted time later on.
Learning from others should become a priority of yours. But don’t make learning an excuse for not taking action. What you should do instead is learn just enough, start taking action, and then keep learning on the go.
Now that we have seen its importance, here are three ways to learn from others:
Reading allows you to learn from a lot of great people that you otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to. You have limited personal access to them, but you have virtually unlimited access to their experiences through books.
If you think you are too busy to read, notice what General James Mattis once said to a fellow military officer:
The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession.
You might not be in the military, but I believe the same principle applies: being too busy to read is a shortcut to learning things yourself the hard way.
2. Listen to podcasts.
Just like reading books, listening to podcasts allows you to consume information. The nice thing about it is that you can do it while doing other activities. For instance, you can listen to a podcast while working out or doing chores. That way you can learn without taking extra time. It’s a good way to maximize the value of your time.
3. Find mentors.
Finding good mentors isn’t easy, but being able to find them is gold. Unlike the previous methods, you can interact with your mentors. They can then give you specific advice for your situation. The book Mastery emphasizes the value of having a mentor.
Whatever methods you use to learn from others (it’s best to use all of them, of course), there is one thing you should remember: write down the lessons you learn. I can’t count how many times I’ve forgotten an important lesson only to find it later in my journal.
So what do you think? What other ingredients do you think are necessary to succeed in life?
When we’re children, we learn (and fail) all the time. We fall off bikes, scrape knees, add sums incorrectly, and tell someone we have a crush on them when they’re clearly not interested (*cringe*). That’s just what kids do.
As adults, we tend to move into areas of core competency, sigh a breath of relief (Hooray! No more feeling like I’m constantly failing at everything!), and then promptly stagnate. This, of course, is the quickest route towards the kind of career and life experiences that feel just kind of, well, “meh.” In order to keep yourself engaged and motivated, it’s important to continually form new and unexpected neural connections.
Fortunately, in the internet age, it’s not just easy to learn, but also to learn from other people, so you’ll have a model to go from and you won’t feel so alone in your endeavors. Here are 4 tips for doing just that.
1. Try a new healthy habit for 30 days
If you’re like most people, you set lofty, unachievable goals for improving your health. Maybe you decide you’re going to shed 40 pounds before Memorial Day, or maybe you’re all about that unachievable New Years’ resolution. The problem is, big goals are hard to maintain, and you’ll feel discouraged and overwhelmed when you don’t meet them, which will up your chances of quitting.
Instead, trying giving a 30-day project a try and blogging about your experience. The idea of 30-day projects is to focus on nurturing one (and only one) habit intensely for that time period, so you can really commit and try the new habit on for size. You could, for example, try eating local for 30 days, or not watch TV for 30 days. Who knows? Maybe some of those healthy habits will stick around.
Google “30-day project” and you’ll see a number of fellow bloggers with inspiring ideas. Even if you already have a few in mind, seeing what other people try can help you reach outside of your box and really challenge yourself. Even better: Invite your own friends to participate so you can learn from and support each other and swap stories about your experiences.
2. Learn about the world
Come on, be honest: how much global news do you really consume? Reading a summary site like The Week can be a great way to a get glimpse into the stories making headlines around the world, as can any number of news publications.
That said, the best way to really learn about the world is from its many people. Doing so doesn’t have to mean stuffing all of your possessions into a backpack and hitting the road (though that’s nice if you can do it, too!). Instead, make full use of the internet and social media. Read articles and add comments to travel blogs like Gadling. Narrow in on a region of interest, start doing your research on WikiTravel, and post questions on the Lonely Planet Travel Forums or even on Quora. Or, for a social network and travel blog site all in one, head to Matador Travel, where you can connect with people worldwide and learn about new communities while also doing a little teaching about your own region.
3. Learn how to be more entrepreneurial
From the corporate workspace to the home office, just about all of us can use entrepreneurial skills these days. After all, in a tough economy, bosses reward go-getters, and “innovator” is the buzzword of the day. But how can you learn these skills without enrolling in an MBA program or throwing your hat into a risky startup’s ring?
The best course of action is to find a thought leader within a niche that interests you and learn from them. Thankfully, with the popularity of corporate blogs and social media feeds, this is easier to do than ever. Let’s say, for example, that you love Stonyfield Yogurt—both the brand itself and its online presence. Just a browse through the corporate blog will tell you all you need to know, as long as you look closely. Want to learn how to draw readers more deeply into your site? Look at the “Recent Posts” sidebar. Want to tempt readers into reading your full post? Study the wording of the Stonyfield blog’s headlines, the kinds of photos they choose for the top of the post, and how they break up text throughout the page.
Even more helpful is when a brand commissions white papers and case studies and posts them online. Take a peek, for example, at Amazon’s Website Case Studies; an exhaustive look into just how real customers have benefited from Amazon’s products. Here, you’ll learn how to make the most of online tools that can help you launch or maintain your businesses or side projects from one of the most successful businesses around. If it worked for them, why shouldn’t it work for you?
When a thought leader provides insight into their business, grab it!
4. Learn how to make something new
Last but certainly not least, there’s much to be learned from the tinkerers of the world. Step entirely out of your everyday comfort zone by making something totally new. Learn how to hack your Ikea furniture. Turn everyday objects into a robotic arm. Follow lifestyle blogs, or just head to Pinterest for a little creative inspiration. With so many bloggers posting their experiments online and even how-tos, there’s no excuse not to give DIY a try!
Search for a Maker group to find even more in person support.
So much of our everyday work lives rely on repetitive skills. Learning something new, no matter how seemingly minor, will refresh your brain and give you a sense of renewal and inspiration.
Make sure to check out the new daily articles on LifeHack for even more tips!
Opinions are like noses, everyone’s got one. Experiences on the other hand are highly valuable.
In every culture elders hold positions of respect and honor. Their depth and wisdom make them a valuable asset, because they provide guidance and leadership. And their value is not based on their judgements or opinions, it’s based on their experiences.
You can learn so much from the people around you. We are a collection of our experiences. They form and shape us into the people we are today. And when you take an interest in others’ experiences you can grow exponentially.
Ask people for their experiences
Instead of asking people for advice or suggestions, ask for their experiences. If you’re facing a challenge, seek out people who may have related experiences and ask them:
- Have you ever encountered a similar situation?
- What did you do?
- What worked?
- What would you do differently?
- What did you learn from this experience?
Approach each conversation with an inquisitive mind, and let them tell you a story.
The value of asking for experiences is in the story. Not only will you hear the facts, but you’ll learn about the context and emotions involved in the situation. You’ll hear about the players, and what influenced them. And you’ll gain insights you probably would never think to ask about.
You never know what you’ll hear, but you’ll often receive a pearl of wisdom.
Sharing experiences stops you from judging others
When you share an opinion or advice, you’re judging the other person. You may have the best intentions and share the advice from a very caring place, but you’re still judging.
When you give advice, you’re telling someone what they should do based on your experience. You’re interpreting the situation, and comparing it to how you approached issues in the past. You might give the advice based on actual experience, or you might give it based on a hypothesis. But either way, you’re making a judgement and telling someone what to do.
Sharing experiences changes the dynamic. Instead of judging, you’re sharing a story. You can talk freely about what you’ve done in the past, and how it may be relevant for someone else. You’re not telling them what to do. Rather you’re telling a story, and providing an opportunity for them to learn from your experiences.
They can take what they want. They can ask more questions. They can choose what to act upon. And what you think is a minor aspect of your story might just be the pearl of wisdom they needed to move forward.
Seek experiences / Share experiences
Experiences are all around us. Everyone has stories that you can learn and grow from. Some will come from people with direct experience, and others will come from tangents you may never have considered.
Choose to be curious. Seek out experiences so you can grow faster, and in return share your experiences freely. Experiences offer so much more value than an opinion.
This post and this subject has been on my mind for a while now. Learning from everyone around me — from my teammate to my competitor to the random person I bumped into in the coffee shop this morning — is something I find increasingly valuable.
And, as hearts, minds, and anxiety disorders have flared over politics throughout the past few weeks, it feels like an even more important topic to discuss.
I’m an entrepreneur with a media company and my company’s product is stories. Accordingly, I spend a lot of time sitting down, talking with people and learning their stories. I’ve definitely discovered that the way that I learn about the world is by listening to (or reading) how other people experience it.
I’ve learned how to be an entrepreneur through the stories of mentors’ successes and failures. I’ve learned how to run my company through conversations with small business owners about how they work and by listening to how a former boss learned how to be a good manager. And I learned how to be a teammate by reading about examples of successful teams.
Like many of you, I’ve been a bit of a mess in the weeks since the U.S. election. I realized in the moment the election results came out that there was a lot of topics that I didn’t understand. So I did what I always do when I don’t understand something: I drove to my favorite used bookstore and stared at the shelves for hours. At the end of the day, I had a stack of 20 books that I somehow managed to whittle down to just two to buy because ya girl has limited funds.
When I got home with my two books. I felt overwhelmed by the task I’d assigned myself: understand the world and then go make it better.
Check out more on [email protected]:
But in the days since, I’ve found time to have hard conversations and read new perspectives and I’m reinvigorated by how much I’ve already learned. And come highwater, business struggles or political turmoil, I’m going to keep talking and reading and learning. I hope you will too.
Here are three of my favorite ways I convince people to tell me their stories and teach me about the world:
1 . Express genuine interest in the point’s of view of others
Any conversation that you’re going to really learn from has to be substantive. Which means both sides are going to have to push past niceties and initial judgments and open up. There’s a book that’s well known and oft-referenced in the business community called How to Win Friends and Influence People. In his book, Dale Carnegie writes, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
And while being interested in the person you’re talking to is a valuable technique for getting them to share their experiences and lessons with you, interest also helps you learn. In a paper called The Psychology of Curiosity, a Carnegie Mellon professor wrote that curiosity (or the feeling that you’re being deprived of knowledge) is a major motivator in learning. Which makes sense, right? If you’re having a conversation with someone but you’re focused on something that’s going on outside the window, you’re not going to learn. But if you’re giving your full and genuine interest to that person, you do learn.
2. Conversations are way better than interrogations
My favorite learning sessions are reciprocal. It can be a weird thing for the journalist in me to sit down for an interview and have it be a two-way conversation. In so many ways, my training tells me to keep my mouth closed and maintain a professional, one-way conversation. But when you’re really trying to learn from someone, you have to be able to give something in return.
I remember sitting in my fifth grade classroom and my teacher telling us that when we’re talking to someone we should make sure to regularly nod, keep eye contact, say ‘mhmm,’ and jump in with questions when we needed clarification. Those little tricks work as well in my life now as they did when I was a kid.
I’ve also found that it’s helpful to be as prepared for the conversation as possible. So if it’s a conversation that’s been set up in advance, do your reading. Learn as much about the person as you can. If you’re trying to learn business lessons from them, study up on the industry they work in. That way when you’re talking you can say, “Oh yeah that reminds me of X” or “Right which seems kind of like Y.”
If you want an example of someone who is really good at conversations, listen to the radio show On Being and pay close attention to the host. I think she’s an absolute genius, and I’m constantly using her techniques to guide my own conversations.
4. When they teach you a lesson, ask them to back it up
Occasionally you meet people who seem as wise as Grandmother Willow and who speak in life-lesson soundbites. If you’re trying to keep a log of perfect quotes then this person is your best friend. If you’re trying to learn from their life, then you want to get them to tell you a story, not a quote.
Studies have shown that the human brain loves a good story. A Harvard neurologist discovered that when humans tell each other stories, their brains release a chemical called oxytocin. Oxytocin, he wrote, tells our brains that “it’s safe to approach others” and it motivates cooperation with others.
So if you’re having trouble getting to the story-sharing part of your conversation, try asking more open questions. And then when they give you information, dig into it. Ask, “How did you learn that? What was your experience? What did you read?”
In my experience, it’s way more powerful to learn how someone else learned a lesson than to have them just flat-out tell you their takeaway.
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” — Albert Einstein
One way to learn is by making mistakes.
Another way is to learn from others.
In Software Architect Bootcamp, Raphael Malveau and Thomas J. Mowbray, Ph.D. write about two skills you need to learn from other people.
Two Skills to Learn from Other People
Learn how to read between the lines and how to take advice.
“There is another way to learn (rather than making mistakes), and that is by learning from other people. To do that effectively, two skills that most people lack are required: how to read between the lines and how to take advice. “
Read Between the Lines
What’s not said can be more important than what was said. Similarly who said it, and why they are saying it, may say a lot.
“The phrase ‘reading between the lines’ is only a figure of speech.
People do not literally read anything between lines of text. Rather, they analyze what the author is saying at a level of detail somewhat beyond the surface discussion. This requires the use of knowledge, experience, and imagination.
If you don’t learn how to benefit from the advice of others, you waste a lot of time and energy.
“It is also true that very few people readily accept the advice of others. Everyone should try harder to accomplish these basic techniques more effectively. While this advice is relatively simple, few people regularly utilize these basic skills in much depth; therefore, they waste a great deal of time and energy by not benefiting from the knowledge of others.”
Know What to Accept or Reject
Decide what to use and what to throw away. Through practice, this becomes second nature.
“These are impressions that one should be able to pick up naturally while reading. The ability to read between the lines gives people the ability to discriminate and consciously decide what they did will add to their knowledge and what they will reject. Every piece has some good and some bad information. To win the psychological war, one needs to know the difference instinctively.”
Humans are better than any other animals at learning from one another. Take advantage of this superpower and learn from as many people as you can. At least, learn the good things and not the bad stuff.
by Michael Milone, Ph.D.
Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer
Last Updated: May 3, 2016
Originally Posted: Jun 28, 2011
Humans are better than any other animals at learning from one another. Take advantage of this superpower and learn from as many people as you can. At least, learn the good things and not the bad stuff.
You can learn from others both directly and indirectly.
Direct learning takes place when you ask people how they do something, listen to their answer, and try to imitate what they did. A good example is asking friends how they are going to find the time to do all the reading for a literature assignment.
Indirect learning is when you observe someone doing something and imitate the procedure the person follows. Suppose you notice that a friend doesn’t eat in the cafeteria, but instead brings lunch to a quiet spot and eats while studying. The friend is always on time for the next class. This seems like a good strategy, so you imitate it. By doing this, you have to give up some social time with friends in the cafeteria, but you think it is a reasonable swap.
When learning from others, you have to be sure to evaluate the effectiveness of what you have learned. Not everyone is successful with the same strategies. The evaluation should take place in two phases. In phase one, you determine the likelihood of the strategy working with you. If you think it may work, then try it. Be sure to follow through with the second phase of the evaluation, determine how successful the strategy was after you have completed it.
A surprising number of people are reluctant to learn from others. They feel it is somehow demeaning, especially in academic areas or life skills. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of us try to imitate the techniques of skilled athletes, business people, scientists, and such. There is no reason why we should feel any different about people we consider our peers. If someone is doing something effective, don’t hesitate to try it out.
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There were two girls who always happy in whatever the situation. They had lived in a village where norms against girls and women still prevails. Their two brothers make their lives even worse than ever because their parents had already died due to cancer. Now all they could do is to obey their brothers’ instructions, otherwise they used to beat them brutally. That’s how they are surviving.
As years were approaching their brothers wanted to get rid away from them by engaging them in child marriage. They had fixed their date of marriage within few months. But still, they are happy regardless of having these evils on them. They were just of 15 and 17 years. They had never allowed that fear to ruin their happiness. With a bright glow on face. They always smiled and try their best to live happily. They taught me a great lesson that is no matter what circumstances we are in; happiness is just the state of mind.
On the contrary, one of their friends used to live in stress tension in spite of having all the things in order, she regret for every small and pretty thing. That is ridiculous. So, I hope you will get the main idea.
Do one exercise-
Take a pen and paper. Write down about your miseries and reasons for happiness. Write them in two different columns then in 95% of cases you will have more reasons for gratitude and happiness then and make sure to follow majority of reasons and live happily. But if you still confused then tear down the half side of paper where your miseries and sorrows have written Let’s enjoy the life. Don’t waste your valuable time on shitty people.
Always remember that where your views, presence, suggestions, and ideas doesn’t matter, don’t go there. And everyone is having both sides so always look at the positive one and learn from them. Life is too short to learn everything to try to learn as much as possible. Everything happens for a cause so never regret over people or time. If today they are bad then after some time, they would be best. So be patience and grateful.
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
Learning from experiences is one of the ways in which we decide to cultivate more of what we like about ourselves as opposed to just randomly accepting every way in which we react.
Your habits, priorities, ways in which you interact with people and work that you love, even how your perception is being shaped… All of this partially came from learning from your experiences. We are sum of our experiences, hence they are priceless. What you and I are today is due to what we have experienced and how we decided to label that.
If nurtured, this process of learning from your experience can either promulgate progress by repeating what you liked in the past, or simply never bring the good stuff back again.
Always dedicate some time just for thinking
If you ask Robin Sharma, one of the best motivational speakers and book authors in the world, about what he thinks constitutes the secrets of success, he will mention, among other things, dedicating some time for yourself where you can just escape the clutter, sit down and think.
What this does he says, and I cannot agree more, is being able to prioritize about your goals, realize your potential, evaluate your experiences. And there it is- evaluating your experiences.
That’s how we learn about what we want from life; about what it is that makes us enjoy it even more; what pushes us more and more towards success and improvement. And learning from your experiences means taking all of that and bringing it back into your life.
Bring back the things that make you improve
You will discover that you will be amazed with the way you handled something the week before. The way in which you communicated with someone; the way you made yourself go and finish the workout; get up early; stick to a rigid diet and work schedule…
You will surprise yourself about how much there is to your potential and greatness just by reminiscing.
And once you find out exactly that, there is no turning back. You will want more of it. We all do.
When I remind myself about how I applied discipline one week before, I cannot but not try the same thing again. Couple of days ago, I worked for probably more than 6 hours straight on building a website for a client. And just thinking about it, I feel the urge to do the same thing again today.
Same goes with my diet, fitness, social life, myriad of things that I enjoy.
I find what it was that made me tick and just hold on that and try to bring it back.
Learn from your experiences but try learning from others as well
Listening to a video of Scott Dinsmore giving a TED talk, I learned a great way in which we can improve our life and what we experience.
It is rather simple really. You just take this concept of learning from your experiences and try to broaden it a little bit.
I extrapolated three ways that can guide you through this process more easily.
- First, you need to find couple of people who you admire for some reason.
- Then you take a notebook and write down what it is that you like about them. Their discipline, their passion, their dedication, how they talk to people, how they dress, their idea about leisure and enjoying spare time… Whatever it is that you like. Not the person as a whole, but specific part of his behavior which you like to mimic.
- And finally, you take the notebook and pick which of those values you will embed in your own life. Which of those experiences you will try to bring to your life too. Prioritize, set, and go.
What you have after a while is a refined picture of how you should act in many situations in life, and this inevitably translates into improvement and ultimately success.
For example, I recently read a tweet from a fellow internet marketer saying that he spent 6 hours working on Photoshop followed by two hours of writing, and had still few more hours to go. I was fascinated, and wrote this down in my notebook.
As time goes by, I will ultimately try and mimic this in a similar amount, and if I find the experience rewarding in the sense of improving my work, my discipline, or letting me tap into my potential I will try and bring that back into my life over and over.
See which standards, values and experiences lead toward improvement and success and try and make them a part of your life. Learn from your experiences. Over and over.
Editor and lead writer at Lifestyle Updated, and the co-creator of Fitness Updated. Married to my lovely wife together with whom I think about lifestyle design, personal development and smart fitness. I write long guides, detailed reviews, and health related articles. I also love to meditate daily and read whenever I can.
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“It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story.” -Iyanla Vanzant
When my children were young they went through some really difficult things. Today my son Dalton, who is now an adult, was able to share some of his difficult experiences from his childhood with a young girl who is going through very similar difficulties currently in her life right now. Watching him share parts of his story with her I could see the relief in her face to realize that she is not the only person to go through what she is. He was able to share some words of wisdom that he had gained through his own experience that will help this little girl through her experience. And I couldn’t help but think to myself that one day when this little girl is all grown up that she too will sit at a table with a young person going through the same difficulty and she will be able to share her own story and use her experiences to touch the life of another child.
There is a tremendous comfort that comes when you can open up and share your hardships with someone who has been through it and who understands. There is also tremendous value that comes from hearing advice from someone who has been in your very shoes and lived to tell about it. That is why it is so important that people be willing to open up and share their story. It will inspire others to share their story too.
The other great thing about opening up and sharing with others is the bonds of friendship it creates. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” -C.S. Lewis
There is so much truth to that. It is a wonderful thing to be able to take down your walls and be vulnerable with people who care about you and who can understand and relate to what you are going through. No doubt it causes friendship to be formed and deepened.
I acknowledge that it can sometimes require a lot of courage to open up and share your story, especially as it relates to sharing the sad times or difficult times you have been through in your life. But doing just that…being open to share….is not only healing for you but it is healing for others as well, and the very best way to overcome past negative experiences is to find a way to use them for the positive, and helping other people is a definite positive.