Jamie Wallace, a 19-year-old Seattle University student, speaking about why he was supporting Barack Obama in the last election, wrapped it up in one sentence: "Sometimes experience is not what you need. Sometimes, it takes a fresh eye to look at issues." (See Obama: We'll 'transform America')
Absolutely, because experience is often flaunted with little substance to back it up. Experience is also not a good thing to get results because experience has tradition at its core: dead men's solutions which suited their time, fear of risks and the constant grind of doing things in a certain way; a way which has been 'tried and tested' but which is guaranteed to produce the same, often debilitating, results.
Experience on its own keeps us in the past, saying the same old things, doing the same old actions, quoting the same old tired phrases, while a fresh mind opens new doors to possibilities and puts other options on the table. The trouble with this great 'experience' is that the more someone gets it, the more they believe they have all the answers and the less they seek to learn. Yet learning is the most important thing in our lives to widen our store of knowledge, to keep up with inevitable changes, to allow a new perspective and to prevent us being fossilised in the same ways of thinking and acting. One can be as experienced as one could be in dealing with people in America, but taking that experience to the UK or any other country will only be partially useful, until one becomes more aware of the social and cultural norms that govern that new society. A desire to learn and forget one's experience would be far more useful in that context.
Experience and Work
One of the strangest phenomenon in the world of work is getting experience and then how it is perceived by those who have it. Everyone, especially younger recruits, begin a new job all wide-eyed and bushy tailed, eager to learn and to begin their journey on the career ladder. Ten years into that job, especially if the person hasn't moved away from it for other experiences, and he/she is likely to be fearful, clinging on to that job for dear life, feeling they cannot afford to take any risks to find another. Worst of all, they are likely to believe they cannot compete with anyone else because no other company would want them at that age and with that career history! Their long years of experience appeared to have counted for nothing. Instead of experience making them feel ready for other things, it keeps them stuck as their confidence falls. Thus they continue with their experience, getting the same results week after week, month after month, fearful of the wider world and new competition, while thinking how unworthy they have become.
The sad paradox is that the experience they have spent so much time acquiring appears increasingly useless in the face of their fears. So they will remain stuck in the same job as long as they can to avoid being rejected elsewhere.
Experience is a very limiting commodity in its use. It limits vision, aspirations, opportunities for change and, most important, it limits possibilities. Experience only sees itself, harps back to itself and promotes itself while preventing innovation and excitement along the way. Experience is also about the past, not the future because experience is a dead activity. It has already enjoyed it's time. A fresh new perspective, an open mind, a desire to learn what is necessary for the next situation, are all important arsenal in the competent leader's bunker. For example, no amount of prior experience could have prepared me for Newsvine, not even my writing skills. But having that open mind to see things in different ways has helped me to learn pretty fast!
In any situation experience gives you the confidence to be able to see which route MIGHT be beneficial, based on what has already been tried, but it does not guarantee that route will work because it is based on past results. An old result is likely to be the last thing one needs to apply to a new situation, especially when it is likely to have the same effect. Experience stops people from making decisions they should make because they are afraid to stray from the 'accepted' or 'expected' path, which means stagnation and dithering while nothing new is sorted or achieved.
The ideal situation for life is 40% experience and 60% open mind for learning and adding to it. In that way, we can always refer to what has gone before but with the confidence to know that there are also other possibilities not yet tried.
©Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2012
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Happiness is a state of being. We are the ones who decide whether we wish to be happy or not, by the script we use inside our heads."