Embrace what you don’t know. Your inexperience can become your greatest asset, because it ensures that you will do things differently than the way everybody else has done them. Sara Blakely, founder, Spanx, Bloomberg Businessweek, Aug 12, 2013.
I loved this quote. However, I would modify the first sentence slightly with “Go for it. Your inexperience can become your greatest asset …” As a young man, just trying to get things done, I just did what seemed to make sense. I didn’t have a lot of real world experience to draw upon or to limit me.
A lot of people do “just go for it” and don’t do a great job. The key characteristic I’ve found here is that those that don’t do well usually need for someone else to do the work. They say “I have a great idea, you guys should do it” rather than “I had this great idea, and look at what I’ve done.” The individual that says “hey, I’m going to try this” and makes it their own effort is the individual I find who often has the most successful ideas.
I had a colleague ask me for some advice. He noted that a lot of my ideas were being used by our teams, but he could not get anyone to adopt his. I asked him about his ideas and after he explained them, I asked him how they were working out? He looked at me perplexed and said “I don’t’ have time to do this stuff!” He needed other folks to do things differently. Not many of his ideas dealt with what he was doing.
I told him that many of my ideas that were now in use, I had been doing for several years, before anyone else picked up on them. When someone was finally interested I was able, through experience, to show them my approach and any pitfalls. He looked dubious at the notion that he would be doing these things himself for years before anyone might want to adopt them.
Inexperience is not a real problem to getting things done. In fact, as Sara hints at above, it might be our edge that makes us successful beyond what others have achieved. However, I’ve found that this success with inexperience is highly associated with people who are constantly trying new things.
Most of us became successful by trying, and failing, at quite a few things before all that experience culminates in doing something extraordinarily successful. With all that experience, taking on something we don’t know much about, can be the key advantage.
When have you been successful when working on something you didn’t know much about?