Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn. – Chinese Proverb

Life is all about moving forward and moving forward requires learning about different perspectives. No matter if it is one’s career, education, or even personal life, the most important thing is to focus on constant learning and self-accountability. However, many people fail to learn different types of life lessons. The main reason for this can be regarded as the fact that they do not know the right way of learning and adjusting to things. One of the most important quotes which provide us a better idea of life and learning is “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn.”

Chinese Proverb

Did Benjamin Franklin say this Quote?

No, Benjamin Franklin did not say “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”. Benjamin Franklin was an American President and many people wrongly attribute this quote to him. It is nowhere found in his writings or sayings. In reality, the first evidence of this comes from a Confucian Philosopher named Xunzi who lived in the third century B.C. Even this evidence suggests a partial match with the quote mentioned above. Several other sources have been cited for this quote. 

A Chinese ancient source is also cited for this quote. It comes from a collection of Chinese stories which is called Shuo Yuan. This book states “The ear’s hearing of something is not as good as the eye’s seeing it; the eye’s seeing it is not as good as the foot’s treading upon it; the foot’s treading upon it is not as good as the hands differentiating it.”

Meaning of This Quote

As interesting as this quote seems, it comes with a quite deeper meaning which many fail to understand. Below, we have highlighted several themes of this quote.


One of the most important aspects of life is how much effort we put in. It can either be an effort with different people or an effort in doing something particular. Some people don’t do much effort but expect results while others do a lot of effort just to see a minor return out of it. While this varies from person to person, the general rule is that the more effort you make, the better fruit you bear. 

Let’s say if you are trying to explain to a coworker where they went wrong, there are three ways to do it (based on this quote). The first one is to just let them know that they did wrong. With this method, you are just giving them an idea about their mistake and blaming them. Eventually, the co-worker will stay depressed and try on his own to mend the mistake or possibly just think that this happened once and won’t happen again. Turns out – the same mistake happens again. This is an example of “Tell me and I forget”.

In the second case scenario, if you do tell the coworker where they went wrong as well as you teach them specifically on how to do better, things will be a bit different. The coworker will not be trying out on his own as he would be knowing the pathway to improve the work performance. This approach is better than simply telling the person because it kind of helps in teaching the other person as well. However, this is still not the best possible approach. 

The third case scenario is the most interesting one. In this case, not only do you tell the coworker their mistake and teach them how to do it better, but you also practically involve them in an exercise that helps in improving their work performance. For example, instead of just telling or teaching how to upload a particular document, you actually involve them with yourself or practically tell them how to do it. This will not only provide them a remembrance but also learn that they were lacking before which was causing the mistake in the first place. 

Ultimately, from all three scenarios, we can see that it is the effort that counts the most. The more you put in, the better would be the result that you expect from it. 

A quote about effort suggesting to go the extra mile

Don’t Leave People Like they Are

Some people have a very bad habit of leaving others like they are and then blaming them for it. If a person is highly qualified and excellent in his job, he does not seem to care for others and is only focused on himself. He tends to always bash others for not being up to the mark. The most important lesson to learn in this regard is that not everyone can be at the same level of excellence. If you want someone to improve themselves or bring out a better version of themselves, you should make sure that you don’t leave people like they are. Instead, invest some time in them by teaching and involving them to learn and strive better. 

Speak with Actions

An important theme outlined in this quote is that one should speak with actions. A simple explanation is sometimes not enough. Some people only say certain things and don’t practically do them. If you are committing yourself to something, or you are promising to be better, don’t just keep it to the words. Instead, speak with your actions and prove others wrong with your learning. Do not just say words that you don’t mean. 

Participate if You Wish to Progress

“I’ll do it”, “Yeah, I’ll think about it”, “Let’s see what happens, I’m not so sure” and many other lines are said by people who are lazy enough to practically do something. If you wish to progress, start today and do something about it. Procrastination is one of the most important things to be considered with regard to this quote. Many people commit to things but don’t practically do it for the sole reason that they are procrastinators. In the long term, a procrastinator will not progress. Only such a person who actually takes part and progresses with the learning is going to succeed.

A poster saying “You got this.”


No matter who said the quote “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”, what is important is the meaning behind it. Above, we have discussed several themes and analogies behind this quote. We recommend that you adjust your life according to this quote as it will be quite helpful to get yourself back to the right path. Many other inspirational people such as Alfred Lord Tennyson have uniquely talked about life and learning.