The Problem with Glasses

Day 38: New Glasses
Image by whereleaureensmiles

Experience reminds me of glasses, both help you see life better.

The problem with experience, though, is it changes your perspective, good and bad. You see things differently.

When we see something we create an imprint. This is the way things are.

Sight is perhaps the most deceiving of the senses. As an amateur photographer I know this. I can tell just by the way the same place will look different everyday depending on the weather and placement of the sun.

Experience can also deceive us. Sometimes we need a new prescription.

Yes, you can navigate life better, avoid the mistakes of youth, and generally do better. In this sense, experience helps you. You become better for it (though perhaps less mirthful).

But it brings negative things, too.

How Experience Impacts Us Negatively

First is the loss innocence. Naivety falls to the side.

You see patterns, behaviors emerge (yours and theirs), and you avoid them. Making the same mistakes of the past — while so damn attractive — just can’t happen again. Once bitten, twice shy.

That same knowledge causes you to “know better.” You really don’t, at least not all the time, but you think you do. There lies the second danger, the arrogance of experience.

You see this all the time online by people who declare “the right way,” and then criticize and look down on others for doing it “the wrong way.”

Yes, I do own a glass house in this sense. I also know that I’ve been wrong in this sense several times, and in others I used my mighty experience to lord over people.

Experience does not equate to wisdom. Wisdom is the demonstrative application of experience, not the telling of it. Further, wisdom lets you see that different actions may also produce a good result. The Internet is full of folks who will tell you


right way, but few will show you with their own actions, or respect other paths.

I look back at this judgmental pontificating behavior and think, “what an asshole.” I seek to offer my opinion of others’ actions now only when asked.

The other problem is that your eyes get worse, and the glasses don’t work. Experience tricks you into thinking you do know better, that you don’t have to change your ways for a situation. You become unteachable.

Here, wisdom comes into play again. If you know that things always change, you remain open to new ways, different methods, and evolve. You realize in the end that you know only a little. You can adapt.

What do you think of experience?

  • Marc Zazeela


    I like this ” Wisdom is the demonstrative application of experience, not the telling of it.”

    How true that experience robs us of our innocence and naivete. Imagine the world through the eyes of a child. Everything is new and each experience is fresh. No prejudice, no preconceived notions; true wonderment at everything around us. Every day is a first day.

    It is human nature to compare this to that and yesterday to today. How sad that everything must be measured against something that came before. Why not evaluate and appreciate everything on its own merits?


    • geofflivingston

      I agree. It’s one of the beautiful things about having a child, and seeing the innocence of the world through her eyes. Everything is new and fresh and beautiful (or not).

      Experience can guide us from making the same mistakes, but it is apparent to me as I get older that it cannot be the sole barometer.

  • Amy McCloskey Tobin

    The entire Social Media Experience has humbled me; it’s ever changing nature means none of us are experts, and I’ve grown to like that.

    I will redouble my efforts to remain teachable.

    • geofflivingston

      I agree, those that have staid on certain principles have found themselves irrelevant in shockingly short periods of time!

  • Josh

    I liked this post. Experience can be a great resource but it can divide people because it isn’t always as broad or comprehensive as we want it to be.

    Sometimes bad experiences impact the clarity of our view regarding opportunities and we refrain from trying them out because “experience” suggests it was bad and doesn’t distinguish between whether there were issues the last time that have been corrected.

    The converse is true too. What once worked may not because circumstances have changed.

    • geofflivingston

      You mean baggage? Baggage? I got no baggage!!! LOL!

      It’s true, experience can be deceiving with what worked in the past. I definitely learned that the hard way with blogging.

  • Jason Konopinski

    This is a good reminder to always take “best practices” with a grain of salt.

    • geofflivingston

      Always good to listen, and sometimes break rank. If you break rank, you have to realize the risk, too 😉

  • Kaarina Dillabough

    I say that the one thing you can’t fast-track is experience. Experience doesn’t make you wise, but wisdom can come from experience IF you combine that experience with an open mind to lifelong learning.

    I don’t agree that experience makes you think you don’t have to change your ways, or that you become unteachable. That’s a mindset, not due to or caused by experience, but from a place of arrogance.

    A wise person realizes they are where they are as a result of where they’ve been, but that in no way forecasts where they will go. Experience is an excellent teacher, but lessons are lifelong and never ending. It is a folly to believe that “been there, done that” equates to wisdom. Wisdom is the combination of experience, insight, curiosity, open-mindedness, empathy and a desire to “solve problems” and be of service, rather than “be right”. Cheers! Kaarina

    • geofflivingston

      Well said, Kaarina. I’d have to agree with your amendment to the post, that’s an attitude or a mindset, not the actual experience of having experience.

  • ashvini_saxena

    I completely agree with you. Its often a feeling that you are told by bosses, professors and everyone elder to you that they know more than you. Yes they have the experience but I have found that most of it was true in those times, in other conditions. Parts of those may still apply but they have be seen with new lights. Now that I am entering 35 soon, I would need to be careful about forcing my point of view. on to others.
    Fortunately new generation is more informed and well read and they don’t take advices on face value. It is better to guide them and let them think for themselves.
    Experience is not equal to wisdom , true,

    • geofflivingston

      Ashvini: The we generation is very powerful in that sense. They value collective experience above me, and that makes them special.

      I do think it’s funny that as I have gotten older how important it has become to share my experience. Clearly we as people want to be listened to. Such is life.

  • Tom Martin

    Interesting take Geoff — would agree with you to a point. When we’re talking about repetitive experience or maybe expertise as most would refer to it, then yes, experience certainly can blind you.

    However, broad experience has great value as there are seldom new ideas in the world just folks who are able to connect existing dots in new ways to form new ideas. But then, maybe that is what you’d call wisdom?

    Good stuff.

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, I think we’re sympatico on that, the ability to use experience successfully is wisdom. Lot of experienced fools out there, too 😉 LOL!

  • Michele Price

    Geoff again you continue to give me ways to respect your continuous growth into your own journey of wisdom.

    Being self-reflective has been my own path for many years and the older i get, the better i get at being an observer. That role allows for growth and freshness.

    • geofflivingston

      LOL, it’s because the older we get the less the more we realize that we know very little!

  • Susan Silver

    Yes 100%. I find it hard to trust anyone’s advice unless it shows in their actions. If what you have to share is meaningful then most likely you are following your own advice to start with. Or you have learned from a dreadful mistake that others can benefit from.

    • geofflivingston

      Absolutely! The do as I say, not as I do meme is not so good. Nope, not at all. Thanks so much for your kind words today!

  • Stan Phelps

    Experience is overrated. The true definition of experience is knowing you’ve made a mistake when you’ve done it a second time.
    Great point in your post to differentiate where wisdom comes in. It’s the ability to ask the right questions, yet knowing there never will be one answer.
    Let’s hope we can all stay green. I mean that in the nicest way. Because when you are green, you are growing. When you are ripe, you begin to rot.
    ‘The longest and hardest nine inches in marketing . . . is the distance between the brain and the heart of your employees and customers’