Youth is a disease, and the only cure is experience

While reading an article about a sophomore college football player, I came across an interesting quote from Arizona State’s Wide Receiver Coach Eric Yarber:

“Youth is a disease, and the only cure is experience”

I took the quote out of its original context, posted it on Twitter and received replies with opposing views. Stephanie Johnson agreed with the quote, while Lindsay Bayuk disagreed. Lindsay feels age is just a number. She added youth is a tremendous asset and a young person with experience is dangerous.

Take this quote off the football field and apply it to your role as a PR pro/communicator.

Side A – The quote stands true. As a young professional your skills aren’t as polished as someone with more experience. You’re also learning, growing and developing. The more experience you have, the healthier you are. This also means you spend less time in a hospital bed constantly being checked on by your doctor….or your director.

Side B – The quote doesn’t apply. As Lindsay stated, age doesn’t matter. You could be a young/new professional, but have had four internships and are practicing high level media relations. Heck, you may have been voted top 25 under 25 by a major publication. You can be youthful, but still have experience and decision making power.

So what are your thoughts? Does this quote apply to life or only inexperienced college football players?

*cartoon found on

10 Responses to “Youth is a disease, and the only cure is experience”

  1. Stephanie Johnson - August 11th, 2009

    I responded to this quote (on side A) when Brian posted it on Twitter this afternoon because I strongly feel that as young PR/communications professionals, either fresh out of college or a few years in, are in that rough transition where we are neither young enough or old enough (experience wise).

    Personally, I’ve experienced this dilemma in my own professional career (working in corporate communications in the semiconductor industry — which is a tough industry to be starting out in). I’m not fresh out of college anymore but don’t have enough experience to move to a more senior role (even with two years experience after college). I’m not entry level but I’m not a candidate for a manger position yet either, it’s a sticky spot.

    I do agree with Lindsay, however, that one can be young and very talented with whatever experience they’ve gathered so far (I’d like to think I’m one of them too), but unfortunately, much of the older generation doesn’t equate experience as the numerous internships and events and high level stature in which an individual is currently performing, they clearly look at the numbers. How many years of experience does this person have? Rather, how long has this person existed in this career? We’re neither young enough or old enough. Simply lost in transition.


  2. R. Devin Hughes - August 12th, 2009

    And yet, in baseball, teams are now clinging tightly to prospects as youth has become the most desirable asset in the game today.

    The problem with Side A is the sentence “You’re also learning, growing and developing.” Does that mean to say that once you turn a certain age, you’re done learning, growing, and developing? Everyone should constantly be doing this, especially in the Web 2.0 world.

    Admittedly I’m biased here being 20 years old, but even if a young person is inexperienced, I don’t think this makes him or her “diseased.” With an inexperienced person, the sky is the limit with how far the creativity and energy could go. Yes, the inexperience may lead to some early mistakes, but I believe that this is outweighed by the freshness that he or she could bring to the company.

    That aside, I feel like today’s youth are leaving college with an awful lot of experience. Just from knowing my peers at Scripps, everyone is internship-hunting starting their freshman year. By the time my junior year concludes, I will have had two internships, our student PR firm, and my classes to draw experience from. I am hoping to obtain another internship for summer 2010, meaning I will have three before my senior year even begins.

    Take a lesson from Major League Baseball–youth is an asset.


    BrianCamen Reply:

    Devin – Thanks for your comments. I’m playing devils advocate here…

    Unfortunately not everyone else is a go getter like you. Some people come into the industry with very little experience and receive a position because they know someone, not because they know the proper way to do something. Those are the people that experience will help cure the most.


  3. R. Devin Hughes - August 12th, 2009

    Fair enough. At that point, though, I don’t feel too sorry for whoever hired the person just because they know him or her. It’s nice to give a break to a friend, but ultimately you need to have your organization’s best interests at heart. Probably should have checked out a few more resumes!


  4. Geri Rosman - August 12th, 2009

    Brian: Interesting topic. I think I agree with both sides. Is that allowed? Side A — how many young people have we met who think exceptionally highly of themselves, their skills and “experience,” who really have little foundation to do so? I know I’ve met [quite] a few. While having “some” experience does put you ahead of the pack, it’s still “some” experience. You really do have to wrack up a good number of years filled with successes and failures, good decisions and bad, before you can be considered “experienced.”

    On the flip side, being a “tail-end boomer,” I definitely subscribe to the “only as young as you feel” theory. (More and more each day, I might add!) Youth/Age is only a number and we should be open to learning from a variety of people, regardless of what their chronological age might be.

    That said, Devin — I wanted to chide you just a bit. “Disease” is just a metaphor, not a personal insult to those of your age range!! And “you need to have your organization’s best interests at heart” — well, that definitely means you haven’t been kicked around enough yet by different agencies/companies to have become cynical. That’s both a good and bad thing!! Temper that devotion though because it most likely (that’s the cynic in me talking) won’t be repaid.

    My advice: enjoy the work that you’re doing and the company for whom you’re doing it. When you stop, then move on. Be happy (or at least, try to be). Eat ice cream (it will always make you feel better even if only temporarily!). Be nice to everyone with whom you work (colleagues, editors, vendors) because goes around really does come around!! Best of luck to all our “younger” colleagues!!/Geri R


    BrianCamen Reply:

    Geri –

    Great advice. You hit it head on – “enjoy the work that you’re doing and the company for whom you’re doing it.” I’d like to add on to your advice. I’m a big believer and follower of Penelope Trunk. Penelope says that once you stop learning at your position to move on to the next learning opportunity.

    Just something to think about. Thanks for your comments as always.


  5. ScribeDevil - August 12th, 2009

    Youth is certainly an asset on almost any team – as long as it’s balanced by steady veteran leadership. For every Nuke LaLoosh, you need a Crash Davis. You want a good mix.

    To counter Side B of the argument, this athlete was voted “top 25 under 25” based on a stellar prep career and limitless potential. And he’s currently working his internship to rid himself of his wretched inexperience. By the time he’s a senior, he’ll be a grizzled veteran, making all the right moves and extending his wing around the next up-and-comer. Then he’ll finish college and move on to the NFL where once again he’ll look to coaches and experienced teammates for guidance as his career progresses.

    Your career – and your life – is a progression of next levels. Every time you ascend to the next rung, you’re inexperience is something to be shed as quickly as possible.


    BrianCamen Reply:

    Linda – Thanks for your comments. Good judgement is key to success.

    Matt – Great analogies – comparing college football players to new professionals. The best of the college football players graduate to the next level, the NFL. They have bigger opportunities and make a lot more money…Show that you can perform at your entry-level job, you’ll keep moving up the ladder and receive more and more opportunity.


  6. Linda VandeVrede - August 12th, 2009

    My mom always used to say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I think when you’re young, you have fast insights, energy, motivation – all great things. The best value to experience I’ve seen is comparatively better judgment, which usually translates to slightly less impulsiveness that when you’re young can lead you into trouble.
    The perfect age is somewhere around 38, I think. 🙂


  7. lindsaybayuk - August 12th, 2009

    Part of the problem with the term “experience” is that the definition is determined by the user. Especially in today’s workforce where 3 or 4 generations exist, experience can mean lines on a resume, years in an industry, number/size of clients, etc. When I first read this quote, I immediately thought in terms of an ability to generate desired results. Can you be a young professional and generate the same results as a 25-year veteran? Yes. No. Maybe.

    Living in both corporate and entrepreneurial environments, I see how young people with inexperience can be tremendous assets. They often provide a fresh perspective and new energy to problem solving.

    In my business, we talk a lot about how it’s not what you know, it’s your ability to find what you need to know. With access to the right websites, e-books, professors, mentors, friends, networks, etc. a young person today has certain advantages over older professionals who have yet to embrace the “collective knowledge” lifestyle.


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