Having worked in the education industry (oxymoron?) for a decade makes me think of the little hypocrisies of what we do. Make it a case of semantics but what is really the difference of sharing knowledge for the enlightenment of the ignorant versus aggrandizing oneself as a guru after “shallow draughts.”

I really would like to avoid the trap of “a little learning.” Let the great Alexanders think alike.

A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

-Alexander Pope

I feel that it’s more pertinent than ever. Especially with Google and Wikipedia and pirated books and Coursera. It is so easy to learn about something for free what you might have paid a pound of flesh for a few years back. To some extent, I think the Internet has been a far richer resource for me and the things I wanted to know than my nine years in university. But with all these at our fingertips (quite literally), how can we truly resist the entitlement to expertise?

Just yesterday, I joked at work about playing the role of experts and how we have a tendency of assuming that role after we “mastered” a Wikipedia article and skimmed through Coursera videos at 1.8x speed. And it’s true. Probably all of us suffer from that cognitive bias. But I guess there are differences between the generous and those just placating egos.

Humility for one. I have encountered respected personalities in their field shun the idea of expertise. Rather, they value their wealth of experience of both mistakes and successes.

Pragmatism is another. Context is key and knowing and telling audiences that things might just work most of the time and not all of the time encourages critical thinking first over haphazard doing.

Learning is yet another. Piggybacking on humility. Most of these personalities state that they continue to be students of their field. They continue to fail and they continue to learn from mistakes.

Finally, action.

Talk about drinking deep.

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