When you see advertising, read books and watch the latest movies, everything can seem pretty black and white.
You see headlines like “You Will Die Tomorrow if You Don’t Start Practicing This One Health Tip” – I may be exaggerating a little, but sadly, not by much.
Everyone has the right answer, don’t they?
Everyone can tell you the best diet and why the others are faulty. The same goes for exercise, and your finances.
It’s in our nature as human beings to think we’re right. Plus, article titles like the one above get a lot of clicks.
But here’s the truth about the information out there…
These are Not the
Droids Experts You’re Looking For
What is an expert? Here’s the book definition:
Expert – a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority:
That’s pretty vague, but you get the idea. It’s someone who knows more than most people about their subject. And while that is true, what we have evolved experts to be is a little…inflated.
Here’s a better definition of what an expert is in the teaching world, that includes authors, coaches, professional speakers…you get the idea:
Expert – A person who has spent a lot of time studying a certain topic. Often passionate, but not always correct.
If someone has much more experience than you, you should listen to them, but take it with a grain of salt. Question everything. The ability to question things is one of our greatest gifts. I’m not saying to be skeptical of everything and everyone, but just because an “expert” says something, that doesn’t mean it’s true. What are the other experts saying? How did the expert reach his conclusions? How much experience does she have in her field? And please apply this to me as well – not that I consider myself an expert (well, maybe by the second definition).
These are all vital questions that should be asked, but rather than taking time to ask these questions about everyone and everything, try to simply remain open-minded about the things you learn.
You’ll often hear me say things definitively. That’s how I write. I don’t like fluff, and I feel like it wastes time to constantly say things like “this might be like this possibly” or “I would guess that this is probably how it is”. I would rather say “this is how it is” and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but at least I didn’t waste your time with wishy-washy words. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m wrong, you shouldn’t be either, and these experts should learn to do the same.
The Truth About the Media and the Press
It’s easy to read a book, have a good idea or learn something new, and start to believe you’re an expert. I’ve been guilty of it. You probably have too, haven’t you? No? Honesty’s not your strong suit? I kid, I kid.
The fact is, many of the articles you’re reading on the internet are mere opinion. There are some facts throughout, but the bulk is opinion. Take personal finances for example. Is it a fact that consumer debt is bad? Nope, it’s simply an opinion – an opinion that most of the financial teachers and I hold, but an opinion still. Could someone promote the idea of living on credit cards, never paying off your full balance and simply opening a new card as they were maxed out? Sure, and I’m sure they could come up with some great reasons to do so.
Sadly, so much of writing and blogging has become more about how people can get views, rather than how good the content is. And while it’s true that if you don’t get views, it doesn’t matter how good your content is, it’s also true that you need worthwhile content for people to read once you click an article title.
The truth is, many experts go against the grain to become popular. They may not be fully sold on their idea, but they think they have to be different to get popular. Take Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, who goes against the grain by often talking about how budgets aren’t very important. He also talks about focusing on the big savings and not worrying as much about small wins, such as saving $5 a day on Starbucks. I like Ramit, and I think he is a great teacher. He teaches a lot of great information, and you should read his books (I have), but you have to admit that he went against the grain with his financial ideas. And while I feel like he is legitimate in intention, you have to think that at least part of that was for popularity’s sake.
It’s not as easy to become famous if you’re teaching what the majority is teaching. The world wants something different. Something new.
How to Learn “With a Grain of Salt”
There are a few ways to understand the concept I’m explaining, and still take advantage of all the awesome resources out there to help you learn and grow. Here are a few ways to be a savvy consumer of information:
- Find what works for you. You could read a different book everyday, and each book could give you completely different advice. Advice that you can’t follow collectively. That’s because we are all different. If you read about a new idea, and it sounds reasonable, try it for 30 days. If it doesn’t work for you, no big deal. If it does, you’ve truly found something special.
- Learn from history. I’m all about innovation. New ideas, news things and new habits. However, I also understand that simple habits like reading, meditation and having a strong spiritual life have all been practices of highly productive and powerful people for centuries. Time will tell, and it does. Learn from the lessons of the past, and implement ideas based on what works.
- Look at the full spectrum. There are ideas that are widely debated. There are also ideas that the experts have common ground on. Take the example above about consumer debt – most personal finance teachers agree that it’s bad. If someone comes along with an idea that opposes the majority, be weary. Listen to what they’re saying, but take it with a grain of salt. Just to be clear here, I’m talking about teachers and successful people. As people who are looking to constantly become better, we are already in the minority. I’m telling you to be weary of people in the minority of our minority.
Teachers and authors don’t always mean to come off as “gurus” – I certainly don’t mean to, if I do. But part of being a successful teacher is having the appropriate amount of confidence, and sometimes that comes out looking suspiciously like know-it-allism.
Don’t stop learning. Never stop learning. But take what you learn with a grain of salt. And make your own decisions.