The first time you drive a car it’s quite nerve racking. After a few years of experience that fear goes away…until something unpredictable happens. Now it’s new…experience is minimized…what to do next? After twenty years, after dealing with a lot of unexpected situations, there’s far less fear when something out of the ordinary occurs. Now we have experience handling the unpredictable and solving problems in an instant. We’re more comfortable with the discomfort.
Experience is mission critical when life safety is at stake. Heart surgeons and airline pilots spend years training to handle the unexpected. They earn a premium for their ability to calmly handle things when they don’t go as planned. That’s why there are Chief Surgeons and Captains…they have the most experience and we need them around in the most uncomfortable situations to lead us through. Passengers aren't worried about how much the airline captain earns when the landing gear doesn’t deploy properly.
But experience also counts in other work. No matter how much the band has practiced, the tension is quite high before the first concert. Because unlike practice, the stakes change once someone is counting on you..expecting a certain outcome. The same band, playing the same music, is much more at ease after the fiftieth concert. At this point, they’ve felt the fear of the first notes, and the pressure of expectation so often, they can dance with it because they know it’s coming. They know that an amp is going to fail at some point and what that feels like. They know people are going to respond differently, maybe even a boo or two…and they know what that feels like. And they know what it feels like to get to the other side…to lead through the choppy water.
Experience allows us to become comfortable with uncertainty and give comfort to others by demonstrating that we know what we are doing…especially when the wheels fall off.
Experience creates comfort…and makes room for improv and art.