“I’ve been with this company for 35 years.”
“I’ve been in this industry since it started.”
“I remember when we used typewriters to fill out those forms.”
“I’ve forgotten more about this, than that new guy will ever know.”
“I’m not sure how things are supposed to work. I just started a couple of years ago.”
“I hope they give me a raise soon. I’m the only person who knows how to process all the claim types.”
“There’s no way someone will ever figure out how to replace me. I wouldn’t even remember all the steps if I had to tell someone. It’s automatic for me.”
Experience counts. There’s no replacement for the lessons learned by doing, succeeding, failing, recovering, making it up as you go, reinventing, punting, switching directions, and trying again.
There’s no shortcut to learning how a business or industry ebbs and flows throughout a year, or through the ups and downs of the economic cycle. A business that’s a no-brainer during the up-cycle can, and will, turn into a nightmare in a down-cycle. A person who can lead a business through an entire up and down cycle can’t help but learn all the ins and outs of that business (and its industry).
But, what’s the true value of all that experience? Nope, that’s not it…
The real value comes when you teach and mentor others. It’s relatively easy to master something for yourself. The real challenge, and deepest learning, is in teaching others. Not just the raw facts and steps to something, but connecting and passing on the passion that you have and watching your “student” define their own passion about the topic.
Consider your years of experience doing something. Maybe you’ve been in a particular job for twenty years. Can you honestly say that you’ve had twenty real years of experience, or twenty one-year experiences?
What’s the difference?
The difference is whether you’ve merely stacked the same one-year experiences on top of one another, or built and connected a compounding level of expertise in your twenty years. It means looking back at the (hopefully) countless people you’ve helped along the way to become the best versions of themselves. It means that you’ve found ways to multiply yourself and your impact by working with, and teaching, others.
The school of hard knocks never issues a diploma, but it does yield a lifetime of experience. That experience only counts if you take the time to pass it on to someone else.