I Fell Into The Trap: Information V. Experience
Recently, I purchased a ‘fixer-upper’ house in the country. The idea was to rip out carpets and to fix other cosmetic issues, then repaint, put down new carpet and enjoy our weekends there.
As with most of these kinds of projects, though, it quickly become more than we’d expected. We found more problems and had to replace more parts of the house than originally anticipated.
Nonetheless, Faith and I pressed ahead to complete the work ourselves.
Now, before you think me insane, you should know that I’m no stranger to construction work. Although I’m a business lawyer today, when I was a teenager I helped my father double the size of our house. Many a Saturday and Sunday were spent doing carpentry, plumbing, electrical and finish work. So, I felt confident that we could take on the increased scope of the project.
While it had been a long time since I’d done that type of work, I thought I could just “look things up” and “get advice” from a contractor friend.
Did you hear the sound of the wind? That was me falling through the information-is-not-experience trap door.
Information is not a substitute for experience.
While I could read about what had to be done and watch videos of others doing it, I haven’t actually done that type work for quite some time. And, when things went wrong I had no experience to tell me what to do.
Experience only comes from repeatedly undertaking an activity. Experience can’t be compressed. It takes one year to achieve one year of experience. Plus, if you’re away long enough, you don’t keep up with the state of the art. Use it or lose it.
According to one study reported in the Harvard Business Review, the time to master an activity is approximately five years of full time work – about 10,000 hours of applied effort.
I see other people falling into this trap everyday. A smart entrepreneur buys QuickBooks to become an accountant, TurboTax to do the company’s tax return, or downloads a form contract to become a lawyer.
All is in control. Until it’s not. The financial records are a mess, the IRS conducts an audit or there’s a dispute over the contract. Sometimes it can be fixed. Sometimes it can’t.
By the time things have gotten out of control, though, the problem is usually much bigger and the cost is much higher.
In my case my contractor friend came to the rescue. He pointed out that using a contractor and handyman would be more cost effective and much less stressful.
I woke up. Realizing the mistake I’d made, we found qualified help and let them do their jobs. The work was done right and I look forward to spending time in the country.
There’s humility in learning that you inadvertently made the same mistake that you preach against.