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Experience

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Experience

I have been wondering about something since last night, and that makes me reflect a lot on many things, to the point of making me somewhat unproductive today. I know that I am not chronologically young anymore, but I still feel like I am young deep down inside me, even though some morning my body reminds me that I am not still in my teens. I have been wondering all day if experience still counts for something in today’s society…

This thought was triggered by watching some cooking show on TV last night. There was not much of anything decent on TV and I was zapping through the channels trying to find something interesting to watch. I came across a cooking show that I had seen advertised on one of the Latin American cooking channels we get on cable, but never actually watched. It was a restaurant based reality show where some young chef, that showed his lack of experience in the way he was running the place and also the attitude of a spoiled kid, was confronted with running a busy restaurant short on staff. This attitude is not entirely related to age, as I know people much older than me that exhibit the same personality traits. What came next is what really floored me when this kid in his mid 20’s, who could not be out of cooking school that long, came on camera and boasted “When I was a young chef”. I could not help commenting to Normita that I probably have socks older than that kid, and how long could he have been cooking professionally to say something like that. If while in his mid 20’s he is considering himself an ‘Old Timer’ what will he consider himself to be in 20-30 years?

This led me to do some serious thinking about what my outlook on life was when I was that age. I clearly remember that, like most people that age, I thought that I knew better than most people my own age, and a lot of older people, but I also remember that I had, and still have a lot of respect for the opinion of people who had done something longer than I had and accumulated a lot of experience. It all comes down to one of my pet peeves of all time, my long-standing lamenting that the old apprentice system of yore is gone, and there is no way for people to learn a trade that takes years to master, as most people want results now without the need to learn it the old fashioned way. I have worked with my hands all of my life, and I know that many skills are beyond what I can do with the time I have to practice them. I also know that if you want to be good at something you have to have some talent, but the most important thing is practice, and practice, and practice, and some more practice.

Back to the cooking world where somebody used to apprentice for years before moving up in the kitchen hierarchy, we now have kids that goes for a few weeks to a few months in a famous kitchen, and move on to another one to improve their resum√©, and that they want to be cooking stars a few short years after they get interested in the trade. This lead to what I saw yesterday on TV when a 25 year old ‘Old Timer’ has is own cooking show on TV, plainly shows that he cannot handle the job at hand, that of running a restaurant’s kitchen, and even worse does not even demonstrate good manual skill at the basic prep work for the dishes he demonstrates. The later is a trait that you see often nowadays on cooking show, and I assume that they do not teach basic techniques in cooking school anymore, or worse that they do, but most people do not bother learning and practicing them properly.

I guess that I am ranting again and boring you all, and that what was supposed to be a very short post is turning into a long one, but I firmly believe that experience and basic skills takes time to learn, and that there are no shortcuts to attain them both. I noticed the same trend in my professional life as a programmer, is that there are so many new things to learn that people are more interested in the technology itself, than in making thing actually do something very well, without the need of the latest technology.

A word of advise to anybody passing by here from an ‘Old Timer’ at many things including life, no matter what your goals are in life, no matter what subject you really feel deeply interested in, please take some time developing the basic skills to achieve your goals. It both takes time and a lot of practice, but when you finally grow up and are finally getting a bit of real life experience under your collar, you will learn to appreciate the fact that you actually KNOW a lot more about the subject at hand than a lot of your contemporaries, and one day you will also learn to be proud of that in itself. By the way, this also applies to people my age, as we are never too old to learn anything new, and experience, no matter how old you are to start with, takes a long time to accumulate. As they would say today, knowledge and experience rules!

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