The myth of the expert

Say you’re trying to learn something. Who would you go to for help? Most people would pick the expert, but maybe that’s a mistake. Maybe you’d be better off picking another beginner who is a little farther along the path of learning.

The slightly more advanced beginner (“SMAB”) will remember what it’s like to be where you are. The SMAB felt the confusion you’re feeling now just a few months ago, and knows what got them past it. The SMAB doesn’t have the expert’s blind spots so they won’t talk over your head or assume you know things you don’t.

You never have to worry about looking stupid when being taught by the SMAB. You feel free to ask every dumb “I should know this” question that pops into your head. Your level of psychological safety is inversely proportional to the gap between your knowledge and your teacher’s knowledge.

And most importantly, the SMAB still has the fire. They haven’t had a chance to become jaded. That enthusiasm is contagious and makes learning more exciting.

It’s also a two sided benefit, because the best way to learn is by teaching. The SMAB will grow from teaching you just like you’ll grow from being taught. The expert doesn’t have much left to learn, and the diminishing returns of teaching that thing have taken over. There’s little to be gained for the expert, but a lot for the SMAB.

So find yourself a SMAB and get learning!

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