Experience – What’s It For?

Buzzwords concern me.  Things we think we know, but when it comes right down to it, we would have trouble explaining in detail.  One I am thinking about is “experience.”

The dictionary definition helped but only a little.

  1. practical contact with and observation of facts or events.
  2. knowledge or skill acquired over a period of time. Especially that gained by someone at work in a particular profession.
  3. an event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone.

Definition 1 requires context or the meaning will be unclear.

Definition 2 should include some additive aspect.  Suppose I work in a bank and spend 8 hours sorting checks into numerical order. After a day,  do I have 480 minutes of experience or one minute’s experience 480 times?  They cannot be the same thing.

Definition 3 has emotional content. Emotional experience is sticky but the message it conveys is often unclear.

We want to use experience successfully.  We need to work a little harder at it.  There are simple ideas that govern its acquisition and use:

Sticky experience is the best kind but it is costly and hard to analyze.Taking a bull by the horns will teach you things you can learn in no other way. 

Easier and safer experience starts with observation of events that others have provided.  That is all education is about.  Observation with a lesson.  Preferably many similar ones and all with like lessons.  If you pay attention to context, you can learn a great deal using this method.

Be careful though, old experience may no longer apply.  Again context.  Experience is specialized.  If the conditions change, we must amend the old ways.

Experience is personal, so no one can teach you.  Examining history with the help of a teacher disguises that we each take our own meaning from events.  Victors write the history, so there is an automatic bias.  The difference between freedom fighter and vicious terrorist.  Try to connect to contexts that you can use.

Experience can sometimes teach things you don’t want to know.  Like grabbing the bull by the horns.  Before you begin,  notice that your context may be too confined and adverse things are possible. 

Experience provides depth of knowledge.  You can learn a lot from a book or a video, but doing the thing is different.  You learn the emotional side by doing.  Have you noticed some golfers melt down when they get ahead.  No book can fix that.  A mentor can guide you through the physical aspects, but you learn the mental aspects from experience.  Sticky.

Given the price, experience should be the best teacher, but like school, it is possible to not learn the lesson.  Failure at school is trivial compared to failure at life.  Experience is expensive and experience from which you learn nothing is ridiculously so. 

We should see experience as practical and usable knowledge.  It is diverse and it is easy to implement once you know how.  The solid practitioners are always on the lookout for more and they are always on the lookout for the way theirs has become obsolete.

Experience is concentrated knowledge and wisdom.  What to do and when to do it.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  don@moneyfyi.com  866-285-7772

One Comment on “Experience – What’s It For?

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