your life’s work: old master or old and past it?

By in general, management, strategy, uncategorized on Wednesday, 15 December 2010

I stopped at my local Marks & Spencer Food, I just fancied one of their £10 deals. Spotted a guy I used to know. He’d managed the IT department for a large utility. Noticed he was wearing an apron. He was stacking shelves.
Do we value what life has taught us or simply start over?

Then I suddenly shivered. Have I seen my future. Is this my next big career move. Is this what a lifetime’s technology strategy has in store for people like me?

Where will all that knowledge go, if its not passed on, how can we move forward. Will the new me never get the chance to learn from my experience?

Wasting the most precious commodity of all. Time.

You know, I believe we don’t really make mistakes. Everything is a lesson in life. Sure, there are trouser clenching moments when we wished we’d not done that, but even those teach us something.

Every day we’re shown so much, some we take on board and so much we miss. The landscape of knowledge is built on time. Time we can save by mentoring.

The young apprentice

No, I don’t mean the TV show. But reflect on that for a moment. Imagine if those two experienced managers who shadow the contestants actually advised them.

But it wouldn’t be much of a show, we wouldn’t laugh at them wasting so much time and getting so much wrong. But it makes my point exactly.

If I could do it all again…

…I would do so little the same. that’s a fact. I wouldn’t do it the same because I know now what works and what doesn’t. I’m sure I’d make a better job of things.

But more importantly, if only I could just sit down with those starting out like I did, I’m sure I save them so much time.

And times’s the one thing none of us ever have enough of.

2 thoughts on “your life’s work: old master or old and past it?

  1. 1

    Perhaps the key essential and critical learning’s of a career lifetime can be encapsulated and communicated in a day or three – perhaps less?

    I do think it is a great shame that society these days makes no effort to pass on it’s learning’s.

    I am 52 and I am still learning, and I am annoyed that in many ways little has been passed on about this time in life to me by my older seniors.

    At the same time, young people need to put there own stamp on things and learn by their own mistakes?

    As long as they remember to back up their data, understand two phase commits, and disaster recovery then I will be happy.

    The overall complexity of business, technology and people needs to be experienced and yes, it can take a very long time to connect the dots.

  2. 2

    If only it was as simple as learning the rules to basic system maintenance, Stephen!

    But I’m not talking about the simple nuts of bolts of a job, I’m talking about the essence of the human elements and interactions with those around us. Understanding not just what is to be done, but why a thing was done that way. Its said that learning by example is worth ten times working to a rule. Its the re-counting of experience, stories about the effect of an action – that instils in us the reason for why we do a thing a certain way and then guides us to look for how to improve it.

    What I don’t want to see is someone coming on board and doing what I did, as I did it, I don’t want them to copy me or to get burned where I got burned. I want them to be able to understand what I did so they can do it better, avoid what I did wrong and evolve to achieve more than me as a result.

    Experience is a powerful form of learning. Its something that is cumulative and that you can never have too much of. Its how we become good at something – it connects the neurons within our brains.

    If by teaching someone how we did something, they may gain more knowledge earlier in their careers, enabling them to achieve so much more than I did – and with any luck – move the bar so much further.

    I guess I’m talking not about quantity of knowledge, I’m talking about the quality of our actions.