Does Experience Really Matter?

“It’s the difference between walking through your life on your way to somewhere, and walking as your life. Even if you believe that where you want to get is extremely important, that destination is secondary. Your immediate experience is what really matters. It is your life.”

~ Richard Moss, Positive Thoughts

by Pete Ferguson

Experience can matter, it can also hinder you greatly. I’ve been at the same company for almost 14 years. In some areas that “institutional knowledge” is a benefit. But over my career, it has also blinded me to opportunity. To combat this, I have hired outside talent, networked with a variety of different people from different ares of expertise, enlisted mentors, read extensively, and constantly questioned my perception of the current reality.

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I’ve seen many people make the wrong assumption that a long time in the saddle makes them a good rider.

Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, eBay and many other successes were created out of vision – not experience.

Experience plays a role in building relationships, having patience, and doing the right thing.

Experience is a weakness when it kills a new vision – because “that’s not how we’ve done things in the past” – limiting creativity.

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Experience can cause a lot of resistance to new ideas – when they are not your ideas.

Experience can matter. But it is really up to you.

You will be the same person in ten years as you are today except for what you read and who you meet.

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What are you reading? Who are you meeting? What plans are you crafting?

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Aside from mistaking that time on the job somehow equates to brilliance, the second most common mistake I’ve seen is that because someone has been on the job for a long time they do not need to create meaningful relationships – with everyone. Not just sucking “up” the career ladder – but taking care of people on all levels.

I can’t tell you how many times building a seemingly meaningless relationship with an obscure group has later paid off huge dividends. Org charts change. People get promoted. And your relationships become like balloons. One may not lift you up, but several dozen will.

My mom was a school teacher. Other teachers couldn’t understand why she was so kind to the custodians, baking them cookies, asking them about their families. Other teachers couldn’t understand why my mom’s class room was clean and in great repair and was first on the list when something needed to be done or she needed help.

Our receptionists have been asked by the recruiters how job applicant’s treated them. I have witnessed several seemingly qualified candidates be removed from the short list because they were not kind to the “invisible people.” Same goes for administrative assistants, drivers, doormen, etc.

No one is invisible.

How you treat the cleaning people tells a lot about who you are. Do you know their names? Do you thank them? Do you write thank you notes to their superiors?

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What assumptions are you challenging on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?

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