When you're growing in knowledge in a specific area, you might find yourself talking in a way that loses people. These would be people that haven't studied what you've studied. You're using words that are like an "inner lingo" in your field, and it goes totally over their head. They might not tell you that they've become lost. Maybe they did understand 80% of what you said and that was enough for them to smile and nod their head a little. Regardless, some of the words that came out of your mouth didn't stick. I think it's an art to be an expert AND to have the ability to communicate complex things to beginners. But most of us lose sight of what we were like when we were learning. What questions were we asking at that time? What areas of the topic were the hardest to understand?
Put another way, it's easy to forget what it was like to be a beginner.
Explaining Things Simply
I've learned all about videography, I would say I'm an expert in the field. Though sometimes I'm lazy and I don't implement all that I know into my work. That is a different problem than being ignorant, and it might be worse.
A couple of weeks ago I met with a young guy that is interested in videography. I didn't study before going to meet him, I didn't show up with notes. I just showed up assuming that I would somehow know the right words to explain videography to this kid. After all, I'm an expert, right? Soon after starting, I had to apologize to him. My brain couldn't piece together a proper explanation of what I know. And that got me thinking: being an expert at teaching is a different skill than being an expert at what you're teaching. And not all experts are good teachers. And the best teachers might not be the best hands-on experts out in a given field. So in connecting with beginners, and efficiently helping them through the education process, you should at least prepare before showing up to give a class (duh!)
I hope I don't make that mistake again... ever.
"...Not all experts are good teachers. And the best teachers might not be the best hands-on experts out in a given field."
Dan Harmon has a quote that I really love, he said this:
“The internet revolution was in everyone realizing that they were a nerd. Because what nerds are are people that are experts in something that are on some level pointless to someone else.”
In light of this idea that an expert can be in anything, even Pokemon cards, or Harry Potter lore, or civil war history... Imagine a bunch of experts sitting around chatting and laughing about the exact thing they're nerds about. Then you walk up. You're a nice person that isn't dumb and might be interested in what they're talking about. But you don't have a clue about the thing they're talking about. You hit some sort of a social wall.
I'm interested in this social wall. I would love to find a way to break it down so that interest in topics could flourish outside of the groups they're currently in. So that people could get involved in whatever they *might* be interested in, and more efficiently. And that they could grow to take ownership of that thing more quickly.
I dream of these ideal scenarios.
Ideally, one of those experts in that group would be a bit of a spokesperson and give you a crash course on what they're talking about. Right? Maybe they have an inside joke and that's what they're laughing about. Inside jokes are fun because you only say a word or a phrase and then 90% of what's meaningful or funny needs no further explanation. It's all in the memory that the group shares together.
But we don't live in an ideal world, and as you ask questions they might act like it would be too difficult to explain their insider stuff to you. That sucks, but what are you gonna do? They aren't interested in opening up to you. I guess all you can do in that situation is move on.
But I'm fascinated by the idea that anyone can explain anything to anyone. An astrophysicist explaining what he does to a 5-year-old. I love that image. And to me, it shows a great level of care from the adult to give the time and mental energy to answer the question, "how do I make what I do digestible for someone so young with so few life experiences?"
The spokesperson is one that takes this time and gives this energy for the sake of developing a new interest in the "outsiders."
The spokesperson has the power to make vital connections between experts and beginners. These are the people that I believe could have the largest impact on the world. Because they have the best ability to successfully spread and foster interest in new topics among others. Individuals that might ultimately enjoy joining the club of plumbers, nerds, astrophysicists, engineers, musicians, etc.
I love the internet because we all show up as outsiders. We have the opportunity to poke around wherever we want (user discretion advised), plenty of spokespeople have created content that is educational and inviting. We can consume all the content we want and then log off an "insider" into some new thing.
But how do you instill in someone a desire to ask questions and search for the inside of something? An awareness to pursue things for themselves? A need to learn?
I don't know yet. If anyone else does, I'd love for you to message me with your ideas. I genuinely think about this often. Or if you know me and have my phone number, feel free to give me a call.
See you tomorrow!