I can sort of teach it, so how do I sell it?
This is part three of a four part series on influence. What it does, how we use it, and what it does and what that means. Part 1 and Part 2 might be interesting for a friend or an enemy. Either works.
This should have been in your inbox on Sunday, but it didn’t contain the nuance necessary. I apologize. You’ll get a double filling next week.
There is always an overabundance of information about the things that we need intrinsically: safety, relationships, growth. Most of my close friends who have partners, generally both work. Some have corporate roles and so does their beau. Others are artists. Some are more blended. Regardless, their advice is always nuanced. It’s even become culturally relevant enough to craft robust data sets to help explain how people are doing it. It’s personal and specific to how we navigate life. So why is it still distilled down into some of the least functional advice possible? I have a theory.
Manipulate Me Zaddy
At the top of the food chain in this digital wasteland of conjecture, more apparent than inside of what I’ve deemed the Relationship Industrial Complex. Simply, it is the persistent flood of information about what you should be doing to secure the person you deserve and live the life you dream of. In a newsletter I used to write that wasn’t as good as this one, I described those who perpetuate this framework. They respond to many names, but they occupy a singular title; that of the perpetual Guru Zaddy:
The guru zaddy is any person(s) (zaddies for the plural), that thrives off of the assumption of their expertise, without checks or balances about what they are in fact an expert of or in.
You can generally recognize them in a few distinct ways:
1. They rarely admit they have any form of coaching or assistance in growing into where they are
1.2 They rarely discuss things with contemporaries who could challenge them or push their thinking
1.3 Being wrong is never an option. Much easier to invent haters than realize you may need to reassess your position
1.4 They can never give credit to the source of something. Instead, they just use TinyShot to put it against a colorful background, and reap the social capital of never having to attribute anything
1.5 it's been a while since they've been a practitioner, so just trust them on what they are talking about because YOU LOVE AND NEED IT
I’d summarize some of the most egregious forms, but you know where they are, and how they move. It’s embedded into how we trade on influence as capital. You probably skipped past a few today.
Deep(est) Work or whateva
Malcolm Gladwell created an entire cultural firefight after Outliers, by summarizing the work of K.Anders Ericcson. The 10,000 hour rule as he called it, described how you can gain mastery by the accumulation of hours put into your chosen task. You can’t open Instagram with out a declaration of how many hours people are NOT counting. The only equation more in
. First, Ericsson was studying violinists. Anyone who has played an instrument can attest to this idea; you suck at something, then you progressively suck less. Instrumental practice requires a focus that you can’t always maintain past a certain point, because your mind or your body deals with consistent exhaustion. Second, the 10,000 hours he described for that study, was entirely arbitrary. Not every violinist he studied had reached the number of hours that could extrapolate into success.
Third. the phrase that delineates the kind of practice that he suggested led to mastery ( deliberate practice ) was in the name of his groundbreaking study. It’s actually the title: The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. But it’s much easier if you can attach a number to something, because, if someone has tens of thousands of people that engage with them, they must be right about something. That came out in 1993. Outliers came out in 2008. We’ve spent a decade nestling the idea of 10,000 hours with it being fully out of context unless you wanted to find the source material.
Being deliberate is what separates you. It is, specific, focused, and exhausting. You have to rest so you can return to it. You know its happening because you are teetering on the edge of your experience and on the precipice of everything you haven’t experienced yet. It’s brutal. You shoulder weight of a beginner by choice. Then you learn. There are a plethora of errors that say everything about your progress and nothing about your worth. All of the
You can be at the tippity top of your field and not be close to an expert. Just go to a conference about anything and look for the headliner, and ask what they are struggling to understand. Big cricket energy. You can also be the best at what you do and only be celebrated posthumously. Zora Neal Hurston sold more units after she died. That’s unconscionable, preventable, and commonplace. Funny thing about genius; it’s easier to engage with as a perspective than a person. We love to find manuscripts, but never ask why we have to dig for what’s already in front of us. It shouldn’t be archeology every time we need to surface something that moves us.
Is this your (expert) King!?
We are all closer to cryptomnesia than we care to admit; the generating of an idea you think is yours, but was created by someone else. It’s often psychologically unintentional, which does nothing to lessen the impact when it isn’t actively confronted. Or, they just steal it. Why give credit when you can just pretend you had the idea first anyway?
Perhaps that’s why the Alex’s among us are more often hidden in public until they aren’t. Fighting for your own space is to acknowledge that you need more of it in the first place. In a world full of noise, quiet becomes uncomfortable. Untenable. Unbearable for longer. If you aren’t saying enough, how can you prove you’re doing it!? The paradox of being an original, is that you surrender to doing it on a timetable that confounds public perception. Compound interest is a great concept to visualize, but it’s not exciting to experience. But it’s what you need to expand you ability to learn across and through things.
The charade of expertise isn’t just in the presentation, it is in the delivery. It’s not next level thinking because we haven't seen it. If everyone is an expert, who is doing all the learning? Raising your credit score 100 points in a year doesn’t make you a financial expert. It could simply mean you decreased your credit utilization rate. Or you opened enough Or you leveraged your DUNS number effectively. Or there’s a credit union near you that offers lower rates because it’s community-owned. Inspiration is cool and its helpful; it does not a curriculum make nor a CFP create.
We run a deep risk of creating more sycophants and less contemporaries. We don't see each other, because no one wants to be a novice long enough. I’ve never met an expert who is truly afraid of being wrong. In fact, most of them aren’t always convinced they are right. They are convicted that they must do something though.
So Prolific, So Gifted
Frederick Douglass was the most popular man in America at the turn of the century. He had to find balance between silence, environment, responsibility, and his ethics, in the midst of great turmoil. Perhaps, that tension is best explained through a letter, he wrote to the slave owner who refused to let him free his sisters:
I will now bring this letter to a close, you shall hear from me again unless you let me hear from you. I intend to make use of you as a weapon with which to assail the system of slavery—as a means of concentrating public attention on the system, and deepening their horror of trafficking in the souls and bodies of men. I shall make use of you as a means of exposing the character of the American church and clergy—and as a means of bringing this guilty nation with yourself to repentance. In doing this I entertain no malice towards you personally. There is no roof under which you would be more safe than mine, and there is nothing in my house which you might need for your comfort, which I would not readily grant. Indeed, I should esteem it a privilege, to set you an example as to how mankind ought to treat each other.
I am your fellow man, but not your slave.
A brother trying to free his sisters, in the midst of shouldering the responsibility of articulating why humanity was a birthright. The turning of a nation inside of itself with ha pen, a voice, and an elite blowout. The instruments change, but their effectiveness doesn’t if you know that it’s in you and not on you. I can’t imagine that pressure, but I can identify with the intent.
There is tremendous latency whenever you attempt original thought. It is isolating and can drive you into the inner caverns of your mind as you work to sort through what only you can see. It takes years, and even then, you get much closer to realizing that much of your work, will remain unfinished. It doesn’t diminish the need to do it, it increases it. The shortness of life has the tendency to do that.
Too often we let people without the range tell us where to aim.
You can’t summarize your own genius if you want to make an opus that sounds like you. But if you want to just be out here, there’s a blueprint for that too. Just make sure you have your course ready for pre-sale.