Experience Is Worth Something

About the only thing worse than arriving late for the party, is to arrive late and yet assume that you know everything that’s gone on prior to your arrival.

Not so very long ago, a novice rod builder called me and attempted to explain why casting reel seats were improperly designed. In his mind, he felt sure that he had the solution to what he assumed was an ongoing problem with such reel seats. Trouble was, the situation he assumed to be so very troubling to thousands of custom builders had been solved some 25 years earlier with the introduction of cushioned hood liners. He hadn’t been around long enough to know that his perceived problem, was actually no problem at all.

Even more recently a new player entered the component distributor field and immediately began enthusiastically sourcing product for which there was really very little, if any, market. In the rush to move to the forefront, the company had failed to do the market research necessary to understand which endeavors were temporary trends by a few, and which were long term staples of the mainstream custom rod building craft.  The result has been product that sits on the shelf and gathers dust.

It’s true that most participants in any craft, endeavor, etc., are prone to sitting back and just doing things they way they’ve always been done. It falls on a few to push the envelope and develop the new methods and techniques that take things to new levels. Sometimes it’s the new blood that joins in the middle of the game that helps accomplish this. But often those who come in late waste a lot of time and energy because they underestimated those already involved and failed to take a little time to fully comprehend the history of what’s come before.

Between 1910 and 1912, during the race to be first at the South Pole, Captain Robert Scott and the Royal Navy believed that their superior intellect and advanced technology easily bested that of any native peoples and would thus ensure that Scott’s party arrived at the pole first. Conversely, Norwegian Roald Amundsen had spent enough time with the Greenland Eskimos to deduce that these seemingly primitive people had not only survived, but actually thrived in terribly adverse conditions for centuries. Amundsen made up his mind that these people obviously knew something about how to manage in spite of an extremely harsh environment. He choose to emulate their clothing and transportation methods. History tells the tale – Scott and his party suffered horribly and died.  Amundsen and his party sailed into history and according to Amundsen, “We were never cold nor hungry.”

Moral of the story – When you enter into a new endeavor, always do yourself a favor and build on the experience, including the mistakes, of others. Before you decide that you know more than those who have practiced a craft for decades, take a step back and carefully listen to what they’ve got to say. There’s a lot to be said for enthusiasm and book knowledge, but there’s even more to be said for experience. Folks that have been doing something successfully for a long time often know exactly what they’re doing.

Tom Kirkman



  1. RKuhne on August 18, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Good article. But I have to say that I know a lot of long time builders that have been doing things badly for a long, long time. But I will not argue the point. You do offer some good advice for newcomers.

    What really caught my eye is your reference to the South Polar expeditions. A Wikipedia search? Or are you really up to speed on the events leading up to the conclusion of 75 years of exploration before anyone reached the point?

  2. Tom on August 18, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    My knowledge of the period from 1850 to 1900 is limited, but is extensive in regard to the period from 1900 to 1914. This includes both of Scott’s expeditions, both of Shackleton’s and Amundsen’s single effort. Shackleton may have been the best leader of men to have ever lived (reference the Endurance-Aurora adventures which defy the imagination) but to be fair, adventures are generally the result of poor planning. Amundsen has always seemed less exciting but only because he generally succeeded with little trouble – the result of his always extensive planning and preparation.

    Email me at [email protected] if you would like to discuss this in more depth. I have a particular interest in those expeditions. Wikipedia? Please.

    I’ll leave you with this paraphrased quote, “For scientific experimentation, give me Scott. For swiftness and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen. But when all hope is lost and you fear the worst, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” I doubt you’ll find that on Wikipedia.

  3. Wiley on August 19, 2010 at 12:14 am

    I have enjoyed the blog but have to take exception to this one. Just because somebody has been doing something a long time does not mean that they know what they are doing.Unless you work in the fireworks business you can do something wrong for many years and just keep on doing it wrong. Longevity does not always equal knowledge.

  4. RKuhne on August 19, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Touche. You know your polar exploration history.