Learning the Hard Way
The son of a master thief asked his father to teach him the secrets of the trade.
The old thief agreed and that night took his son to burglarize a large house. While
the family was asleep, he silently led his young apprentice into a room that contained
a clothes closet. The father told his son to go into the closet to pick out some clothes.
When he did, his father quickly shut the door and locked him in. Then he went back
outside, knocked loudly on the front door, thereby waking the family, and quickly
slipped away before anyone saw him. Hours later, his son returned home, bedraggled and
exhausted. "Father," he cried angrily, "Why did you lock me in that closet? If I
hadn't been made desperate by my fear of getting caught, I never would have escaped.
It took all my ingenuity to get out!" The old thief smiled. "Son, you have had your first
lesson in the art of burglary."
People's reactions to this story:
"This is the sink-or-swim method of teaching someone. In the face of fear, people do
things they never thought possible. People are a lot stronger than they give themselves
"A challenge brings out the most in a man."
"Your mind works best and fastest when you have your back to the wall. It's the old
fight-or-flight response. It's basic instinct."
"This is how I learned to speak English. As a five year old, I found myself in a class
where everyone spoke English except me. Had I just tried to learn English on my own,
I would never have learned as fast. This is why foreign language courses in this
country are unsuccessful."
"The best way to respect and appreciate what one has accomplished is by learning it
the hard way and doing it on one's own."
"There is, of course, no better way to teach than to force one to teach oneself."
"When we learn from a master, we learn by imitation. When we learn on our own, we
"In some lifestyles a man has to stand on his own. Even his own father may not be
there to help him."
"When my cousin was learning to skate, she first practiced falling down so she would
know how to do it and what it felt like BEFORE it happened for real."
"Just like everything else in life, the only way to really understand the situation
is to be in it. Experience is the best teacher."
"I agree that the ' best' way to learn is sometimes by experience. But NOT ALWAYS.
I know that I have changed greatly by watching other people suffer."
"To be a thief, or for that matter in almost any profession, you have to be ready
for the unexpected and always on-guard."
"To do something at its best, you have to be able to accomplish it against all odds."
"A lesson about survival is always valuable."
"In the future, this boy will either be confident about escaping, or hesitant that
he may not be that lucky again."
"The father taught him about his deepest fears. When a person lives through their
worst fear, it doesn't frighten them as much anymore."
"His father put his son into a worst case scenario in which he would either break
down and never want to burglarize a house again, or feel confident that burglary
was the career for him."
"I dislike the fact that this story is about burglary. It's a crime and shouldn't
"This is not the kind of thing a father should be teaching a son. I would think twice
about entering a life of crime."
"At first I thought the father was trying to dissuade the son from following in his
footsteps by wanting him to get caught and face the consequences."
"He locked the son in to make him think about whether he really wanted to learn the
secrets of the trade."
"I don't see any strong family bonds here!"
"What would have happened had the son been caught? The father should want more for
his son than a life in prison. He should be teaching his son why this is the wrong
way to live!"
"I see a very selfish man, raising the next generation of fool. He is neither a teacher or Father."
|| Wanting God || Gutei's Finger || Practice Makes Perfect ||
John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.