How Experience Blinds You

Day 38: New Glasses
Image by whereleaureensmiles

Sight creates a visual imprint. This is the way things are.

Though we depend on it, 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 reminds me of glasses, both help you see life better. But like corrected vision, experience can deceive us.

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

And then many of us make a classic mistake: Interpreting personal experience for universal wisdom.

Experience, the Unreliable Crutch


Image by Gros Plante

Yes, with experience you can navigate life better, avoid the mistakes of youth, and generally have an easier time. In this sense, experience helps you. You improve because of it (though perhaps you become less mirthful).

But it brings negative things, too.

First is the loss of 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 with social media experts who declare “the right way,” and then criticize and look down on others for doing it “the wrong way.”

We’re talking about a medium, an open canvas. Further, how can innovation occur within such tight constraints (more on this tomorrow)?

Yes, I do own a glass house in this sense. I also know that I’ve been wrong several times in lording my “mighty” social media experience over people.

Differentiating Experience and Wisdom

Image by wtl photos

Experience does not equate to wisdom. Wisdom is the demonstrative application of experience, not the telling of it.

The Internet is full of folks who will tell you right and wrong, but few will show you with their own actions, or respect other methods.

Showing, not telling, is one of the reasons I periodically engage in a public marketing campaign.

For that very same reason, I increasingly seek to offer my opinion of others’ actions only when asked. When I blog about what works, I take great pain to limit my observations to my experience or someone else’s case study.

Finally, experience tricks you into thinking that you don’t have to change your ways. You become unteachable.

Here, wisdom comes into play again. If you know that things always change, you remain open to new ways, others’ opinions and different methods, and evolve.

Further, wisdom lets you see that different actions may also produce a good result.

You realize in the end that you know only a little. You remain open, and adapt.

What do you think of experience?