Every teacher, tutor, facilitator, coach, knows this secret:

The material doesn’t change much from course to course, year to year. But each time you go through it with a different group of people, it’s like hearing it for the first time.

Today I got to go through a few sections in the course Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth with a friend. I’ve trained a couple dozen animators on two different continents since 2007 when I first became an animator myself. I’m pretty convinced by the evidence that it’s always a unique experience.

This time I had just one participant, a Chinese friend studying here at a local university. His insights were different from mine, different from the artsy teenagers, Malawian schoolteachers, Cleveland grandparents, or suburban soccer moms I’ve worked with before. I loved his thoughts on selfless service to others as a political slogan versus a habit of the heart. He drew connections between the development of modern physics and moral standards of conduct that had never occurred to me. He made me laugh at the idiocy of the English language. (“Execute the plan? I thought execute means …”)

It’s not that hard to isolate yourself from difference, if you put your mind to it, but you’ll end up isolated from your own best self as well. You can read twenty new books in a bubble, but you’ll never have the experience of reading the same book twenty totally different ways because each time it was with a person whose experience is totally different.

The second thing about this teacher’s secret: it isn’t secret. The importance of being open to the world is clear if we’re willing to accept it.

You don’t have to see it to believe it. But it must be believed to be seen.