Does Experience Guarantee Performance?
January 20, 2015
"Experience is often a weak predictor of performance." Those were the words I heard come tumbling from my lips and fill the emptiness of my office as I spoke with a colleague. Since uttering those words aloud I have found myself wondering why I arrived at such a thought. Why is it that I believe experience doesn't guarantee performance? After all, practice makes perfect, right? But, the more I have pondered those words the more they make sense.
Think back... right back to the beginning. In the beginning of anything you are faced with adversity. It's an intimidating, frustrating and exciting time. The adversity keeps you on your toes. You're forced to dig deep and work hard. You know what you want and you put everything into achieving it. Then one day your effort finally pays off and you hit your first milestone. You achieved your goal. Now what? You set another goal. You work hard. You achieve it. You're unstoppable. Success is yours. But wait, what is that? Uh-oh! Complacency has you in its sights. You don't think you need to work for your next win. After all you've got experience behind you. You've done this before. You stop working as hard. Your performance slips. And it is at this very moment, you wander straight into the comfort zone!
You know the comfort zone. We have all been there. It's a place where things feel easy. Doing your job feels effortless. You are working, but you're not pushing yourself. You never feel like you're struggling. You love how comfortable everything feels. When you arrive in the comfort zone it is really hard to push yourself to leave.
It is well documented that we tend to perform at our best when our curiosity is strong and we're willing to challenge ourselves. The key to improvement and better performance is never found within your comfort zone. Instead it is found right on the edge of our ability. It is here where we learn the best and the fastest.
You'll know when you're working at the edge because things are frustrating. Difficult even. Things are uncertain. The work you are doing feels like a struggle. It feels like you are giving everything you have to try and reach what feels like an almost unreachable goal.
The more experienced you get the more you develop fixed ideas and only work inside your comfort zone. Therefore, it stands to reason "Experience is often a weak predictor of performance."
To perform at our best we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Push ourselves into doing something we have never done before. Something we have no experience at. Accepting that we might not know what will happen. Experience tells us only what has been. Swap the comfort of experience for the desire to continually push yourself into the unknown.
"You are capable of greater than you know" - E.O. Wilson