Why it’s Better to Have a Learner’s Attitude for Life’s Tests

testMy First Driving Test

My first real driving test came when we left Bozeman and headed towards Canada. We decided that I would drive so that Pedro could work while we still had Internet. He hooked up the trailer, and I nervously hopped in the driver’s seat and adjusted it for me.

I like driving his truck, don’t get me wrong. But I feel like I’m driving an army tank down the road—and now I would have an army tank AND a 22-foot trailer. When Pedro acts as my copilot, I always feel a little nervous, too.

So, basically, nervous plus nervous normally equals a pretty grumpy me. But I decided to stop driving defensively (my term for letting each of his suggestions on driving technique irritate me). After all, if I planned on driving back from Alaska by myself, I needed to learn how do so in the most efficient manner.

The first test occurred five seconds after we pulled out of the campsite. “Can I really make it around that circle?” I asked Pedro.

“Yes, you have plenty of room,” he assured me.

Normally, I would argue with him. What I thought I saw and my perceptions of the size of the trailer and the angle of the turn had me positive that we couldn’t make it. But this was a test of my trust in his greater experience. He can back a semi uphill in the dark blindfolded (ok, maybe not blindfolded). Not to mention that he had known when the trailer was balanced.

My need to always know the answer warred with my knowledge of his superior driving skills. I peered over the hood and carefully negotiated the sharp turnaround without any problems. I had passed my first test.

Changing My Mindset

For the next three hours, I interrupted his work whenever I felt unsure about the proper technique for driving. I learned how to shift down to assist the brakes. I learned what gears work best for going up hills and down hills.

Amazingly, I discovered that when I asked questions, it didn’t feel as much like a test. It felt like teamwork. I needed to learn that lesson. All too often I feel confrontational when I feel nervous. I like myself a lot better when I act like a learner rather than a know-it-all who feels threatened by constructive criticism.

Beauty Tip #7: Make an effort to be a learner when you lack confidence.

Q4U: What makes you feel nervous and defensive?


  1. Anita, what makes me nervous and defensive is not knowing what to say or not knowing the answer. But I think I’m gonna hide your story away in my brain for that next moment and adopt the gear-shifting-trailer-learning attitude. Love that picture!

    1. :). I talk to myself a lot on my blog, if you know what I mean! I’m not to old to change, and I’m working at keeping the learner’s attitude, too!

  2. What an interesting story. I’m not sure I would have the same faith in my husband or myself.

    As for me, I get nervous and defensive when I’m at odds with someone and feel like I need to correct them. Or when I’m in a brand new situation.

    The odd thing is that I try to have a learner’s attitude. Maybe I need to ask more questions. Thank you for the reminder.

    Melinda Hollis recently posted…FMF – TestMy Profile

  3. Great story, Anita! it reminds me of the first time I took Barbara flying. Climbing out from the airport in Savannah (we were attending a conference, and I rented an aeroplane) I let go the controls, pushed the seat back, and said, “You fly.”

    We were in a Cessna 172, surely the most docile and stable of machines, so it wasn’t an unsafe gesture…and when Barbara’s heart had restarted and I gave her a little coaching, she did great.

    And then, coming back, I nearly landed us at the wrong airfield. Pride goeth before the fall.

    Upset and defensive? I don’t really do that. I don’t know why. Not a Zen thing, I guess.

    #2 at FMF this week.

    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 216 – The Lethal Legacy {FMF}My Profile

  4. I love this story! I had the same problems with Richard. I liked to be in control. And asking questions made me feel out of control. But he had so much to teach me!! I’m glad you are learning this lesson while Pedro can still help you with the things you need to learn.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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