Many of you who have been following me know my thoughts about the myth of ‘experience’. When somebody tells me they’ve spent 20 years doing something, the only thing that interests me is where they are right now and if they are happy. Any one of us can become obsolete in a moment and most people don’t give a damn about your war stories. (By the way, if you have to start a pep talk with ‘Back when I was ….’, you’ve lost the room. Nobody gives a ____. Today, ‘back-in-the-day’ means a year ago.)
So for old guys like me (37), what is the value of living longer beyond getting a year closer to those sweet, sweet line-dance club memberships for seniors?
1. You know who to ignore.
I’m going to state this right now because every workplace has them – the company cancer. Also known as the company gossip or the office nag. But this doesn’t stop in the office because these same people extend their bullshit into their personal lives as well. If they were able to compartmentalize, they’d be able to keep their crap to themselves and not infect the people around them. So let’s just broaden this to gossips and nags in general. As a ‘less experienced’ person, I was compelled to respond, to sympathize and to align. But as you’re dragged into the morass that is their general worldview, you realize that the environment has nothing to do with their negativity – they just like to stir shit up to distract from whatever their real issue is; lack of results, lack of attention, lack of whatever. Worst, by listening, you start to justify the time you’ve lost by actually believing their crap. This is bullshit by osmosis and every person in a leadership role has at least one or two guys on their team they have to protect themselves from. As an ‘experienced’ person, I’ve learnt to listen, throw in a couple of pointless platitudes and move the hell on. If it persists, I’ve learnt to fire the guy. Speaking to another ‘experienced person’, I was given this most Confucian of riddles:
“Marco, my boy. How do big fish grow to become big fish?”
“Big fish get to become big fish because they never take the bait.”
2. You know what to ignore
As a guy who pitched deals for a living, I saw several pitch decks a day. Every start-up idea was a home-run and a can’t-miss opportunity. Since I’m not a billionaire, I can tell you that I represented some bad companies and frequently wasted my time. This is the same reason investment bankers, VC’s and angels tend to be aloof. It’s not that they’re jerks. It’s just that if they listened to everything that was tossed in their direction, they would have no time for golf and Maserati shopping. It’s the same for anybody in a leadership role, especially sales (minus the Maserati). As an ‘inexperienced person’, I would drop everything and listened to whatever issue was brought up before me. If the guy talking was frothing at the mouth, I would totally believe that his sales (operations / HR / customer / parking / etc.) issue (opportunity / epiphany) was of utmost importance and I should stop whatever it was I was doing to address his concern. As an ‘experienced person’, I’ve learnt to listen, wait for evidence and then decide if it’s worth going down the rabbit-hole that is asking to hear more. If a sales guy tells me that ‘every’ customer is complaining about X,Y,Z and that’s the reason he can’t sell product, the first question I ask is “Is that every customer or one customer? Because your buddy over there is crushing his quota with the exact same product, the exact same pricing and the exact same back-office you like to complain about everyday.”
3. You know your zone.
Granted, this only applies if you’re introspective and take a moment from time-to-time to figure out where you suck in addition to patting yourself on the back every chance you get. Smart, balanced people always suggest living in the moment. Folks who know themselves know what that ‘moment’ looks like and distractions are kept to a minimal. Folks who know themselves know how to separate themselves from other people. And let’s be clear; people are not equal. Everybody should, in theory, have equal access to opportunities but everybody knows a few people who should never attempt to be surgeons. Some people are just awesome. They work harder than the next guy. They immerse themselves and they don’t give bullshit excuses for working less. They never say things like ‘It’s not my company so I don’t care. If it were my company, I’d work 24/7.’ No you won’t. An attitude of success has no boundaries and it’s certainly not dictated by a clock. You either work hard for the sake of your own success, gratification and dignity or you never will. People who are awesome are constantly operating in their own zone at whatever they do. A job is just a place where they can do something well. Pop that dude out and put him in a different job and he’ll be the same guy with the same attitude of achievement. This is the guy who doesn’t stop until he accomplishes what he needs to do for the day, unlike the other guy who spends 4 hours a day on Facebook games. Gossips, nags and general shit-stirrers go from job-to-job in search of the next job. They never get in the zone because they have no idea what that looks and feels like. They’re so busy at complaining about why each job sucks that they don’t realize they’re the one’s making it suck, at least for themselves. As an ‘inexperienced person’, I only focused on what I was good at and I didn’t know where I needed to improve, be it in skills, attitude or outlook. I looked at situations and blamed others instead of asking if I was the cause for bad things to happen. My ‘zone’ was actually a gigantic blind spot. As an ‘experienced person’, I know exactly where I’m weak and what my zone looks like; i.e. where I find the most enjoyment functioning everyday. And while I’m in that zone, I know exactly who to ignore and what to ignore.