We live in a time where everyone wants to be heard. Everybody is an expert at something and oftentimes, it’s the reason we have a cacophony of voices jostling to be heard. There are “Masterclasses” advertised on every other social media profile. The belief that the more knowledgeable one is, the greater respect they command may be true, but the flip side is a horde of humans who overestimate their grasp of a subject matter. People who think they and are convinced that because they have done something over time, they are masters at it. While this can be true, it is not necessarily always the case. You could have been doing something wrong for the ten years you have been an “expert” at it.
Those who are prone to falling into the I-know-all-there-is-to-know-about-this trap are people who have spent a considerable amount of time practising it. They are known for it. They have been accorded recognition and even mentored others with their knowledge, and so, it’s difficult for them to believe they are still lacking in certain areas in a vocation they have supposedly gained mastery doing.
I am big on personal development. One of the reasons is that I know there’s always something new to learn. I am aware that it’s easy to fall into a lull of self-delusion where I assume I know enough about my craft to not seek further knowledge, and so I often go on a mental check where I re-evaluate what I know with a view to identifying areas of improvement. Yearly, I commit to attending some kind of training or course that advances my knowledge of what I do, and while I am often reminded of the things I already know and practice, I also come away with new information and more crucially, unlearn those things I am doing wrong.
One such moment came this past weekend when I attended a writing workshop. I had dillydallied while trying to make a decision on whether to attend or not. The self-assured part of me imagined I didn’t need it. I mean, what new thing could anyone really tell me about writing? I already know a lot even though the question of whether or not I was putting all I knew into practice was debatable. But, the more humble and rational part of me chided my cocky half. “Lolade, there are quite a number of things you still struggle with. There are many aspects of writing you’re quite not clear about, so what makes you think you have nothing new to learn?” Needless to say, latter Lolade won and I found myself sitting humbly at the feet of a well-respected writer.
The experience confirmed what I had always known– there’s always something new to learn. It really doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do, there’s someone out there who can show you a better way or share a different perspective on it. The ability to keep an open mind and realise this will determine if you actually get better at your craft or remain perpetually under the illusion that you are the next best thing since yam and scrambled eggs.
Humility born out of an admittance that we do not know nearly enough isn’t exactly our forte in these parts. In this social media age, everyone believes they are good writers. Everyone is a subject matter specialist. The most random people organise masterclasses. Every other human is a marriage, politics and religion expert. The open avenue for airing opinions with little regulation has given us the impetus to sell ideas that have no concrete anchor such that no one interested in taking the back seat when it comes to learning.
In attending the writing workshop, I learnt that I still fell into the trap of using clichés even though I had always believed I took enough caution to avoid them. There was also the issue of misusing or not correctly identifying the right place to deploy certain punctuations…it was quite the revelation! An epiphany that humbled me. And again, it got me thinking– how many times have we erroneously assumed we have a thing all figured out only to find out that we have been doing it wrong the whole time?
Most of us can recall an instance or two where someone comes online to post half-truths and even non-facts, deceiving not a few people, until someone calls them out on their ignorance.
Sometimes, it just makes sense to stop and listen to others. Even if you are indeed the best at what you do, spend some time listening to other people’s perspective and knowledge standpoint. You are likely to learn a thing or two regardless of how much you think you already know.