Trapped by Experience

Mike Stewart

"The best indicator of what a person will do in the future is what he or she has done in the past." This conventional wisdom has served as a guiding principle in hiring candidates and managing employees for many years.

"Experience is the best teacher" is another axium that has served as a touchstone for countless managers, coaches, career counselors, success gurus and just plain folks since the days of Rome when Julius Caesar uttered the first known version of this enduring maxim.

Isn't it great that we can rely on this wisdom of the ages to translate into success most of the time? This is because the circumstances people encounter most of the time are circumstances similar to those under which they gained their experience.

For example, a salesperson who works for a well-known and respected company in an up market selling to a customer and his company becomes well-experienced in serving that marketplace under favorable circumstances. As long as that situation continues, his experience will serve him well and he will probably continue to be successful.

Unfortunately, when circumstances change past experience can become the enemy of success. This is because the things that worked under past circumstances may be exactly the things that will misfire under changed circumstances.

For example, a salesperson accustomed to working with a loyal, profitable customer base in an up market may rely on this loyalty and past success when the market goes south and profitability goes out the window. Under such changed circumstances, failure of the salesperson to recognize the chagnes and adapt her tactics can easily result in disillusionment, disappointment, and failure.

Intimate and realistic assessment of each situation is the hallmark of General David Petraeus, Commander of the US Central Command in the Middle East. His understanding of the importance of assessing each situation by looking for markers which define the context within which he is operating enables him to avoid being, to use his words,

Trapped by Experience.*

Regardless of your situation, you will find yourself attempting to see familiar patterns and rely on your experience to dictate what you say and what you do. This is simply begging to be trapped by your experience. Instead...

Be intimately and realistically aware of and open to the uniqueness of the situation and recognize markers that definte the true context of the actual situation. Then and only then will you be able to adapt your experience to the reality of the circumstances and apply the full power of your experience by adapting your knowledge to the realities of the moment.

In order to do this,
You Must Ask Good Questions.

To your success, always!

*For a leader's view of this topic, see the article this Sales Booster Tip was based on at:

 Mike Stewart, Certified Speaking Professional, Registered Corporate Coach and author of Close More Sales!
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.

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