It is very common to hear that the most valuable trait in a professional career is experience. When you look for a job, they ask for 5 or 10 years of experience in some field. In the typical startup pitch, you may hear something like the CEO has 25 years of experience in management, the CFO another 25 in corporate finances, and the board, if they are put together, they sum up to 150 years of experience. So the company as a whole has 200 years of experience. Awesome. If we put together 10 of these companies, it’s like going back in time to when Romans were hunting barbarians.
But the funny thing is that, even though everybody thinks that experience is so valuable, everybody gets it. If somebody is in his fifties, he will probably have 25 years of experience. Why is it so valuable if almost everybody gets it anyway?
It is true that experience is important. The older you get, the more problems you face and the more knowledge you acquire. Your mistakes make you stronger for future experiences. Experience lets you make wiser decisions about a similar problem that has happened before.
However, we are living in exponential times. There is a good video on youtube talking about this. The rules are not the same as in the old times. Technology is growing so fast that the software people are using in the first years of college will be obsolete when they finish it. It happens the same with the methods used in business or marketing. The rate of change is huge.
Therefore, experience is no longer the most important thing. It is more important to be able to adapt to the speed of the world, to understand changes and be part of them. If you are not able to learn fast, you will be put aside by the system. It is more important to be a student (in the sense that you have a lot to learn) than to be a professor (in the sense that you know everything).
What really matters right now is not the experience, but the rate you acquire that experience. What really matters today is the derivative of the experience.