The Key to Mastery

Years ago I and my wife were preparing for a 20-day trip across Europe. We knew there was an issue with our car’s engine and it had to be looked at. We couldn’t go to the usual place where we service or car, so we went to an auto mechanic, who we had tried once.

The mechanic had a repair shop for the past 20 years so we felt confident we were in the right place. Indeed, after check-up, he said there is an issue with the engine that needs to be fixed. So, we fixed the issue and headed for our trip.

The story wouldn’t be interesting if we didn’t have anything unexpected. During the travel, as we were crossing the Alps in a tunnel between Italy and Austria, the car lost power and almost immediately stopped. We somehow managed to reach our destination and to have a great time, but one question remained…

Why this issue occurred after the car was taken care of by an experienced auto mechanic?

The answer was revealed after we came back. The auto mechanic did have 20 years of experience, but it was only a standard check-up for corporate clients. This basically meant 20 years of changing the oil of thousands of cars.

The lesson: experience is not something to measure in years. I’m sure you all know someone who although has been just a few years in a particular field is very skillful and knowledgable, comparing to someone else with tens of years in the field.

Experience, as the word itself suggests, is built upon living through varied situations.

The more diverse the situations, the bigger the experience.

We should stop asking the question “How many years of experience do you have?”.

We should rather ask “What experience do you have in this field or this type of problem?”

But varying situations are not enough. The key to our continuous improvement towards mastery is to learn our lessons. Lessons we learn when we encounter new situations or when we fail.


– Hari from The Gang

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