You Can Teach Subjects But You Can’t Teach Experience

One of my passions is helping people to grow in confidence, which, in-turn, opens the doors for improvement and development across many life skills.

I have mentioned previously that our work with reptile handling workshops (Meet The Beasts) is so powerful because people experience for themselves a movement from white knuckle fear to being able to touch or handle a reptile (lizard or snake). They grow in confidence in something that they didn’t immediately think was possible.  We also get a lot of feedback from schools of how shy, retiring people also gain enough confidence to start making new friends or contributing to class discussions for the first time.  In business, many of the weak links in our chains or teams are not due to inability (I know of nobody who would choose people for a team because they are rubbish at their job!) but a lack of confidence, perhaps in their role, interacting with others, feeling what they have to say is valid, etc.

The reason I feel passionate about using this hands-on approach is that we can often talk to people and encourage them to move forward or take a risk (sometimes until we’re blue in the face) but reality says that unless they actually try it for themselves they won’t experience the benefits of the help or advice we offer.

Theory is useless or impotent until we apply it!

Over the 54 years I have been alive, I have learnt a lot; some things the easy way, but mainly through making mistakes or having to stick with it until I can do it.

People looking at my qualifications would say I’m quite bright, but most of those show an ability to think understand and apply; not necessarily to do. I remember talking to an academic about helping teach their students about clinical trials.  this person considered themselves to be a bit of an expert on the subject having studied, analysed, written and taught about them for a number of years. However, when I asked how often they’d been involved with an actual clinical trial they eventually said, “Never!

All too often we mistakenly think that knowledge per se is something to which we should aspire or look up to. I would suggest that knowledge is only half the answer and is quite often impotent without experience. Academia is a bit like the ingredients of a cake, but experience is where we take those ingredients, mix them together, bake them and make the cake.  Sure, sometimes we burn it, or undercook it but we still make the cake: we apply the ingredients 🙂

I have a passion to share with others in a way they can understand, the lessons that I’ve learnt (including through my mistakes), in the hope that they can benefit from my experience.

This week I had the pleasure of being asked to speak about Careers in the Pharmaceutical Industry to a wide range of students from Leicestershire & Nottinghamshire at a Biosciences Careers Forum held at Loughborough Grammar School. When I talk to students about careers in the Pharmaceutical Industry, my focus is as much on the word career as it is on Pharmaceutical Industry.  There is often a vacuum of experience available to many of our young people, except  the usual vocational courses or qualifications which lead to a specific discipline, such as Law, Medicine or Dentistry).  As a result, many students seem to end-up with very idea of what a career is, let alone how they can develop it.

In my experience, a career is about a chain of events rather than a single position. Some people go into one career choice and stick with that for life (even if it is in different companies). But I think flexibility and creativity are high on the list, both in terms of what companies are looking for and in how we increase our career opportunities.  We should also increase our job opportunities by looking beyond the labels or titles of a company  (e.g., Pharmaceutical, Engineering etc) and understand the range of skills that any company requires.  For example, all businesses need accounting skills, maintenance people, utilities, administrative skills, legal advice, human resources etc, regardless of the products they make.

Once you have gained access to employment there is often opportunity to move around and develop in a number of different disciplines or roles. For example, I had a friend in the Pharmaceutical Industry who started in Sales, moved to Clinical Research, then to Marketing, ending-up in Business Development.

But this is all stuff I’ve learnt over the years of working in Corporate business and more recently, through starting and running my own business. 


What about those of us who lack personal experience or who are just starting-out?

For those just starting-out, they do not have the benefit of much hindsight. They still have to face the options, make choices, make mistakes and achieve their successes. But people like myself (and others) who do have a range of skills and experience can help them on their way.  Perhaps we can meet with them, contribute to careers talks, share our experiences etc; all valid ways of passing on what we know and helping them start to navigate their own path.


I also think that this concept is applicable to almost any area of our life

There are many areas where I lack experience and would like to know more.

I think that is true for many of us, not only in our places of work or career if we have one, but also at home, at work,in our family, relationships, hobbies etc.  The great news is that we often know people with the skills or experience we need.  If we talk to someone  who already has experience in what we want to do or learn, why not ask them questions; listen to what they have to say;  learn from them?

This has been a real source of inspiration and benefit to me. It has also been of great encouragement to those I’ve asked and resulted in many new or deeper relationships too.


BUT, all of the above said, my own or someone else’s experience can only benefit another when the person receiving the information chooses to apply what they’ve learnt, thereby starting to build their own personal experience.

I know that isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but it really is worth pressing-on as the results and benefits can be very positive and far-reaching.


Do you have any experience you’d like to share?

About waywood

Hi & Welcome to my thoughts. I share subjects that are important to me. As you’ll notice, these subjects can be quite broad & varied. I like variety; I like breadth & I like a challenge. I am passionate about helping others overcome their fears, grow in confidence & succeed. Although many people would label me as an achiever, I have battled low confidence, low self-esteem & a couple of nasty, long periods depression over the years. I can’t say, “I know how you feel” but I can hopefully empathise & offer some of the things that are helping me to turn my life around. Please feel free to comment, share & enjoy. Take care, best wishes & keep well Stuart
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