The more I learn about anything, the more I realise I don’t know much at all.
Learning is bizarre because our brains get everything barse-ackwards.
When we know nothing at all about a subject, and we know we know nothing, that’s cool. But if we learn a little something, then we become dangerous.
We get all overexcited in this first flush of learning something new and we think we’re experts. I look back on myself years ago, when I first started my business, and cringe: I had a little knowledge and I thought I knew it all.
Some of the stuff I said…!
And, worse, WROTE…!
We’ve all done it. It’s human nature to do so. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.The problem is when we stick at that low level of knowledge and continue to blab nonsense (this is why the anti-vax and anti-expert movements are so dangerous: a little googling and seeking out information that supports your confirmation bias is not expertise).
(Self-awareness takes practice and I’m much better now at knowing that I don’t know a bloody thing about a lot of stuff. In fact, that’s where I start: with the assumption that I know nothing about a subject if it’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time studying.)
But then – if we continue to learn, and I bloody hope most of us do – we make it over that embarrassing period of barking about stuff we don’t understand and realise just how much we don’t know.
We start to become experts… and ironically, our confidence goes down.
When a little knowledge starts to become a considerable amount of experience and expertise, imposter syndrome kicks in: we know enough to realise there’s still an awful lot to learn, and we get scared.
What if everyone finds out just how much we don’t know?
Which is hilarious when you think of the misplaced confidence we have at the start, when we know nearly nothing!
We make the (false) assumption that everyone else knows as much as we do, and that makes us nervous. What if everyone looks at us and thinks, ‘Yeah, we all know that, what makes YOU the expert?’
This is one of the things that’ll stop us writing our books.
That fear that we don’t know enough, that people will “find us out”.
But it also has another effect: it can make us poor teachers. When we assume everyone has the same level of knowledge as us, we forget about teaching the basics, and the people we’re teaching struggle to understand and keep up.
You know more than you think, and you know more than the people you’re writing for.
But you don’t know enough yet. None of us do. None of us can.
The person who knows everything there is to know about anything does not exist.
And the best teachers and experts know there’s always something new to learn.
So today, on this Sunday morning, I would like you to do these things:
- Remember you’re an expert in what you do. You know a lot of cool stuff. You know enough to write a book.
- Remember you know more than the people you wish to serve. Start simple, so everyone can understand and keep up.
- Remember you know a lot less than you will one day. Keep learning, so you can be the best teacher and writer you can possibly be.
p.s. I bloody love learning. I’m addicted to it. Not just to learning about my own industry (I’m currently doing a writing course and a course on self-publishing and ads) but absolutely everything. And it all feeds into how I help business owners write better books.
p.p.s. speaking of that, have you had a look at Blank Page to Book in 90 Days? The waiting list for my live course is now open and you can join it here.
p.p.p.s. today’s email was inspired by ZDogg MD, who made a video about Dunning-Kruger (that’s the brain effect I’m writing about today). You can watch it here. It’s a good explanation.
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If you want to learn more about how to write, self-publish, and market a book for your business, snaffle yourself a copy of How The Hell Do You Write A Book? Then check out the blog and podcast for more articles and guides. If you want a little (or a lot) more help, find out how you can work with me.
Vicky Fraser is the founder of Moxie Books and author of How The Hell Do You Write A Book and Business For Superheroes. She helps business owners write life-changing books, connect with readers and new customers, and grow their businesses. When she’s not doing that, she’s hanging from a trapeze by her feet.