There are two ways to learn:
the empiric one - by dint of experience, and by listening from others.
Then of course, there are those who never learn anything, committing over and over the same blunder.
Most of those who try to learn something at all are preferring the empiric way as their trust towards others is, specifically in this age of Kali, minimal. Unknowingly, such proponents of "a free speech and a free thought" will follow the path of other empiric seekers anyway, listening from them and quoting them one way or another.
But the false ego forcing them to "believe only what I see" is a powerful force to be overcome only when the carrier of such false ego becomes doubtful himself about his "freedom".
The sastra, the scriptures, describe both ways to learn: the empiric one and the one by listening from real spiritual authorities.
One way to learn by experience is to observe a pattern. Pattern of one´s emotional responses in periodically appearing situations, a pattern of such situations arising periodically, and a pattern of responses of others towards oneself.
A more intelligent person will be able to detect such patterns during the progressive walk through his life and start to ask questions like "why is this happening again" or "what can I change so it doesn´t happen to me again?"
The development of the mode of goodness is absolutely necessary for such realization. In the mode of passion one is doomed to be trapped by the momentarily occurrences, unable to connect previous experiences into an educational pattern, and learn from them.
There is a pattern in becoming disappointed (because of false expectations). There is a pattern of recurrent excitement and frustration (because of the mode of passion we are dominated by), and above all, there is a pattern of most undesirable events like birth, old age, disease and death, which are all connected to the existence of this material body. They cannot be stopped, but our identification with these "bodily symptoms" can.
To see the repetitive occurrences appearing in our lives and learn from them is only possible when one rises above one´s body by a spiritual process and more enlightened consciousness.
By empiric process, one can come to understand that one is not this body. But to ACT on a non-bodily platform is only possible by being blessed by a pure devotee and his true representatives. Otherwise, our empiric realization may be concealed on the academic platform only, meaning we THINK only, but still don´t know.
According to Vedic standards, knowledge is divided into jnana - theory, and vijnana – practice. Only on the level of vijnana one is considered as the true knower of matters.
“One´s actions” are those what will demonstrate the depth of our understanding, not a mere accumulation of words.
Material nature works in patterns, spiritual life is experienced by voluntary surrender to higher authorities. Regarding empiric experience, such surrender requires many, many lifetimes, as stated by Krsna Himself.
Even surrendering, still our "empiric habituation" may occasionally surface (something what Srila Prabhupada called "he is opinionated":-).
One should be on a guard not to misuse one´s freedom of minor individual choice given to us by the Supreme Lord. It is our daily choice of action, which defines our future and makes our life either auspicious, or inauspicious.
Advanced "munis", or empiric seekers, may be blessed by taking the right direction, but the fast and the ultimate way to reach one´s goal is to listen directly from a pure devotee of the Lord.
Being blessed by such a transcendental giant like His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, even fools like myself are able to ponder on the uselessness of their previous empiric endeavors.
One word from His Divine Grace can eliminate life times of worthless empiric observations.