How Experience Prevents You From Doing Great Things

Michael Arrington wrote a blog post over the weekend, explaining why experience can actually prevent someone from doing incredible things. That, because they have wisdom enough to know that an idea is a bit wild, a bit unlikely to succeed, that the experienced person or company avoids them, and looks skeptically on those who try new ideas.

He describes how inexperience and blind passion can lead to building something of value:

“Nearly everything that is really disruptive is created by someone too young to know that they never had a chance of winning. So they blindly charge ahead, and they win. Most startups look sort of dumb in the really early stages, mostly because if they were so obviously going to win then someone would have likely jumped in already.”

And how so many mature and established businesses and individuals continually pass on innovative ideas – on exciting ideas – on profitable ideas – because of their experience:

“The wisdom that comes with experience seems like such a valuable asset to have. You have advice that people should listen to, you think, as you smirk condescendingly at the kid with the big idea and no clue what terrible obstacles stand between her and success… I sometimes feel that skepticism creeping into my thinking when I look at a new idea being presented by an eager and innocent young entrepreneur… Who am I to tell someone that they can’t change the world?”

Michael frames this around age – that he’s noticed himself become more skeptical now that he is 40, having heard so many entrepreneurs pitch him ideas over the past five years. But I would add that this same thing happens at any age, for two other reasons that hold us back:

  • Fear of Failure:

    We don’t want to fail. Even for someone who is young, many of us feel we have something to prove, or desperately want to find success after years of work. By the time you are 20 years old, you have been in school for most of your life, spending thousands of hours studying, learning, and trying. You’ve likely played hundreds of games or prepared for dozens of recitals or debates or what have you. Maybe you’ve loved and lost already.

    So you don’t want to lose. You get on track and try to find a path that guarantees success. And things that aren’t well established, that aren’t yet proven, can be seen as risky, or outlandish because they are risky.

    This is why many people pile in way too late for investment opportunities. They didn’t have the foresight or guts to take the risk when it was meaningful. Later on, when everyone around them feels it’s safe to invest in a particular business or industry, they do too. This goes beyond bubbles around things like housing, this is how most people invest in both good times and bad. The follow the pack.

    Fear drives many of us to make the safest decision, the one with the best chance to succeed. And this is why so many people avoid trying wild new ideas… they are too afraid to fail.

  • Pride:
    Basically, few of us want to look foolish. We don’t want to lose the respect of our family, colleagues and friends, by taking a risk, failing, and then being made fun of. So we hide behind our pride, not only not trying new ideas ourselves, but tearing down others who do try them.

    Many people would LOVE to try new ideas, but feel boxed in by responsibility, so they can’t. How many people do you know that looked at a successful business – eBay, Craigslist, Facebook, Priceline – and said “I had that idea, I could have done that.” Or looked at a successful business, and were convinced that a current strategy was wrong, and that THEY knew the right move to make.

    Clearly, they feel they have the experience and wisdom for great success, and yet, they don’t act.

The solution? Find small ways to test out ideas that you have. Instead of risking your entire family’s savings on a business venture, invest in small ways, either with your time, support or money. Encourage those around you who have ideas on how to build something new – something unproven – something risky.

We watch sports because there is a chance for glory, and a chance for failure. Take the chance in your own life to find the glory, regardless of the risk of failure.