Some of you may be too young to have heard, “Are You Experienced,” which was the debut studio album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Released in 1967, the LP was an immediate critical and commercial success.

But Hendrix has nothing to do with this article.

Before I continue, I do not have the qualifications to discuss what I am about to write about. I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist or have any industry knowledge in that area of expertise. I am simply on the sidelines as an observer.

The subject of knowledge versus experience has been debated for decades concerning so many professions from politicians, CEO’s and even surgeons. All I can do is offer my opinion.

This is what I found on Wikipedia:

• Knowledge emphasizes theory and the obtainment of information and ideas.

• Experience, on the other hand, stresses practice, or the application of knowledge over a prolonged period of time, in order to reinforce understanding of subject matter or a certain task.

People need the ability to try, fail, and learn from mistakes. Naturally, this will lend itself to the fact that practical knowledge is superior to pure knowledge, since knowledge without any sort of experience or practice makes it difficult to apply in a real world setting.

For example, imagine trying to fly an airplane from just reading manuals and never really taking off or having to land in a windy situation. Another example might be trying to play a musical instrument after reading and studying books on music theory including learning how to read music, but never playing with a band or other musicians.

To me, experience is the winner here. Sure, I want to have a knowledgeable surgeon if I need some sort of surgery, but more important to me is the experience. How many surgeries like this have they done? How many complications did they run into that they have learned from? That is what I want to know prior to being wheeled into the operating room.

So what does this have to do with the average “Joe?” Plenty.

Imagine you are either retired and you want a new hobby or you are already employed as a salesperson or sales manager or even a current CEO. What knowledge and experience do you currently have or are you just repeating the same old mistakes and just chugging along?

Here are a few things to consider:

• Read, read, read and listen: This could be books, articles, magazines, podcasts, online videos, such as TED Talks. Continue your own learning curve. Some of the smartest people I know keep learning.

My good buddy David, received his MBA in his mid-60s and now is a master of Excel and my go-to guy on so many areas with respect to his expertise. Another close friend from junior high days, Shelly, reinvented himself as CEO of a completely different industry and formed a successful company from scratch in his early 60s. These guys are personal heroes of mine due to their ongoing thirst of knowledge.

• Practice what you have learned: Every great professional practices. Athletes, pilots, musicians, actors, surgeons, race car drivers and members of the Armed Forces are just a few that are looking to improve in their respective profession. We all know that the more you practice something the better you become at that specific skill.

My favorite example is a Cleveland connection regarding the past Cavaliers’ superstar Mark Price. He said in an interview his success had more to do with hard work.

“There are a lot of opinions on basketball and how that influences development, but to me it comes down to a personal responsibility to improve,” said Price, one of the few players in NBA history with a career free throw percentage more than 90%. “I took 250 to 300 shots a day and improved my free throw shooting at each level. I didn’t just show up, I took it upon myself to get better and it took a lot of effort.”

As they say in the Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers, “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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