Why you should be cautious with experienced people

Imagine you are about to undertake a long journey. A journey made up of tortuous paths, unexpected turns and rough terrain. You have prepared yourself in every way possible to start your sojourn. You realize you will need a map – that will show you how to get from where you are to where you want to be.


So, you go to an “experienced, wise” person who had taken this journey a long while back. He agrees to hand-over his worn-out map to you – you know – the one that he used. So far, so good.

But wait, you suddenly realize that his map has not been updated in a long time. In fact, it may still show roads, intersections and landmarks that don’t exist anymore. But he insists that since he is “experienced” you ought to follow his roadmap.

The question is – would you?

My guess? I think you are now wishing you can get your hands on a GPS – one with an updated map and a lovely female voice telling you what to do! No old roadmaps for your journey, right?


Then, why is it that we place such a high value on experience when it comes to navigating life and career? I often hear people say, “I have x years of experience in_______…you name it (industry, field of work, life, issue, marriage etc). I know exactly what you must do….”

I would take that with a pinch of salt. Here’s why:

  • Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is (another wise quote from John Maxwell).

You see, not everyone who has had an experience has derived valuable lessons from it. Time doesn’t make anyone wise, lessons do.

  • Experiences are useful only if uncolored and unbiased.

How do we view the world? Thru our own prism – our conditioning, culture and biases color our judgments. If I use the same prism to evaluate all my experiences, will I learn anything new? Not really.

When you receive advice, be warned that the advisor is preaching based on how she sees things, how he would deal with the situation and what she knows from her past experiences. While that’s helpful information, it’s not complete.

  • Lessons from experiences must be updated based on new knowledge.

Do you know people who are stuck in a time-warp? Their opinions seem to be decades old. It’s as if they have been living in a cave, and have not witnessed how the world has changed. Or learnt anything new the world has to offer.

This is as true in business and work as in life. Companies still use marketing and hiring practices that are as old as “bell-bottom” trousers.


So the next time you seek someone’s advice, remember to ask yourself:

  1. How applicable is this person’s experience or view-point to my current situation?
  2. Which portions of his advice should I adopt? Which ones should I not adopt?
  3. What biases and prisms are coloring this person’s experience, which I need to stay away from?
  4. Who else do I need to seek advice from?


Seeking and receiving advice is a strategic matter, don’t you think? The more you do it smartly, the more you benefit from it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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