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Over the years and the many different places I’ve worked, I’ve had the opportunity to interview and hire a vast number of employees. In reviewing countless resumes and applications, I’ve noticed that while everyone expresses their experience in terms of years, not all of those years are built the same. There’s a huge difference between ten years of experience and one year of experience repeated ten times.

To obtain ten years of experience at something, your experiences need to build on each other, like a living version of compound interest. If you’re not learning from each new experience and improving your skills, then you’re just repeating the same experience over and over.

If you can now get done in 10 minutes or less what it took you an hour to accomplish 10 years ago – congratulations – you are gaining experience and expertise. And if next year, you can get it done in 8 minutes or less – even better.

It calls to mind an old parable I’ve heard dozens and dozens of times.

After many decades on the job, the old engineer of the factory retired. A few weeks after he left, the main machine that generated all of the company’s revenue broke down and no one could get it to work again, so the big boss called on the old engineer once more.

The old engineer left his fishing hole, walked into the factory, and did a slow walk around the machine. He then grabbed a sledgehammer, and gave the machine a precise and solid whack. Immediately, the machine sprang to life and started cranking out widgets once again.

The next day the big boss receives a bill from the old engineer for $10,000. Furious, the big boss calls the old engineer into his office and tells him he refuses to pay the bill until he knows the exact details of the $10,000 amount.  The old engineer just smiles, scribbles a few notes on the back of the bill, and slides it back over to the big boss.

HAMMER: $10

KNOWING WHERE TO HIT THE MACHINE: $9,990

By the way, it used to take me twice as long to share that parable.

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