Learning the lesson, not the example.

Learning the lesson, not the example.

By Derek Sivers

Learning how to read metaphorically(ˈˌmedəˈfôrək(ə)lē) was a major(ˈmājər) turning point in my life.

When I was nineteen, attending Berklee College of Music, I had no interest in anything but music. Then a teacher made us read the book Positioning, which is a straight-up(strāt) business book. I thought, “Business? Yuck! I’m at music school, not business school! I just want to be a musician, not some corporate(ˈkôrp(ə)rət) suit!”

Then he showed us how we could apply that book’s business lessons to our music. Even though the book makes no mention of music, he told us to translate the examples to whatever we’re doing.

In other words: Don’t focus on the example itself. Use it as a metaphor(ˈmedəˌfôr), and apply the lesson to my situation. It sounds obvious now, but I’d never looked at it that way before.

I realized I could advance my music career by reading books that make no mention of music. In fact, I’d have a competitive(kəmˈpedədiv) advantage by doing so, since most musicians won’t!

Now here I am, twenty years later. I write little articles to share the lessons I’ve learned. But in the comments(ˈkäment), I notice that people sometimes focus on my random example, instead of on the greater lesson.

Nobody else knows your exact situation. So learn to see past the example, focus on the lesson, and apply it to your own life. Think in metaphors.