Learning from the novice

There’s a lot of advice out there that we should listen to the people who are where we want to be. People who are ahead of us in the particular area we’re trying to grow in. This is absolutely great advice- I mean would you really want to take financial advice from someone who just filed bankruptcy? How about marriage advice from a newlywed who has yet to tread the murky waters of adversity in her marriage, or someone who’s been divorced a few times? Or parenting advice from someone with only an infant, or no children at all?

This is common sense. However, I think there is another, perhaps just as important piece of the puzzle, which is paying attention to the novice. Not one of us is such an expert in our field that we’re done growing, and if we hold on to a mentality of “knowing it all”, we will rapidly start to decline. Because a novice is so new to their field, they are more absorbent, up with the current trends and have a unique way of looking at things. They also are usually not afraid to ask questions and seek advice, which helps their work immensely.

For example, a few years ago I had my hair color messed up at a salon. Not wishing to damage it further, I contacted the best salon in town and requested the owner to fix it. She made it worse. So I called another reputable salon and had their “master stylist” fix it. She also made it worse. Finally I searched Instagram and found a young girl at a hole in the wall salon who seemed to be really good at color correction. I visited her, and after having some of her coworkers look at my hair she made her best judgement and not only fixed my hair but gave me a treatment to reverse some of the damage.

In another example, I consider myself much more of an expert at taking care of my children than my husband, simply because I’m home with them all day every day. But recently he saw me tediously cutting up quesadillas for our toddler, and showed me how he uses a pizza cutter to do that. My life was changed! What used to take me 2 or 3 minutes now takes me about 10 seconds.

I now have beautiful hair done regularly by someone with only a few years experience, and preparing quesadillas (which I do often) takes half the work and time. All because I paid attention to the novice.

When people get so far into their field, they can neglect to keep educating themselves from their best source- their colleagues, especially ones less experienced than them. I’ve seen so many people refuse to pay attention to the newcomer, the person just out of school, the amateur… but what if some of the best gems are hidden among them? What if they could teach you one thing that would make your work (or life) better? Wouldn’t it be worth it?

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